The Commonwealth Senate has launched an inquiry into the patenting of genes.
According to the terms of reference:
The impact of the granting of patents in Australia over human and microbial genes and non-coding sequences, proteins, and their derivatives, including those materials in an isolated form, with particular reference to:
(a) the impact which the granting of patent monopolies over such materials has had, is having, and may have had on:
(i) the provision and costs of healthcare,
(ii) the provision of training and accreditation for healthcare professionals,
(iii) the progress in medical research, and
(iv) the health and wellbeing of the Australian people;
(b) identifying measures that would ameliorate any adverse impacts arising from the granting of patents over such materials, including whether the Patents Act 1990 should be amended, in light of the any matters identified by the inquiry; and
(c) whether the Patents Act 1990 should be amended so as to expressly prohibit the grant of patent monopolies over such materials.
The terms of reference do not say so but, presumably, the inquiry has been triggered by the recent controversy when Genetic Technologies announced it was going to commence enforcing its exclusive licence to patents relating to breast cancer detection. It would seem, however, that the company rescinded its threat.
The Senate Community Affairs committee is due to report by the last sitting day of 2009. Written submissions have been sought, however, by 19 March 2009.
Anyone else looking forward to learned consideration of TRIPS art. 27, 30 and 31 after all that hard work that’s been done by the ALRC. See now ACIP’s review of patentable subject matter (pdf) which includes some notes on the AUSFTA obligations. Then, of course, there is always Patents Act s 163.