Human Gene Patent Validity Tested in Australian Court

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Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The staff at Franks & Co were saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Our thoughts are with His Majesty King Charles III and the rest of the Royal Family.

The United Kingdom is now officially in a period of mourning until after the Queen’s state funeral which is to be held on Monday 19 September. Normal day-to-day business will continue throughout this period.

The UK government has declared the day of the funeral to be a national Bank Holiday, so the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office will be closed on Monday 19 September.

The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office’s official guidance on bank holidays is given below:

The office is deemed to be closed on weekends, Good Friday, Christmas Day and all England and Wales bank holidays for all types of business, except for the filing of new applications not claiming priority. If documents are filed for these types of business at times when the office is deemed to be closed, they will receive an official filing date of the next working day.

Any official time period which expires on a weekend or any other day on which the office is closed is extended to the next working day.

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A landmark ruling by the Australian Federal Court has decreed that private companies may patent human genes once they have been isolated from the human body.

Gene patents have been heavily criticised but their validity has not previously been tested in court. 

A recent trial was brought by Cancer Voices Australia, a patient advocacy group, and Yvonne D’Arcy a breast cancer survivor, against Myriad Genetics and Genetic Technologies, a Melbourne based company which holds exclusive rights over the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes.

The advocacy group challenged the patentability of human genes arguing that they were naturally occurring substances, whose structures did not change upon isolation from the human body and were therefore not patentable.  However, Justice John Nicholas ruled that the process of gene extraction and isolation constituted “a manner or manufacturer”.

This controversial ruling is not supported by Kevin Carpenter, president of the Human Genetics Society of Australia who believes that “patents should be limited to isolation techniques or to other products that arise from the gene sequence”.

Experts fear this ruling could hamper access to genetic testing, increase the cost of individual genetic tests and may hinder the progression of cancer research.

It is not yet know whether the advocacy group intend to appeal this decision.

Article Published March 15, 2013