FOLLOWING the High Court's recent decision to overturn Federal Court rulings on gene patenting, an IP lawyer is now speculating on what it will mean for the life-science industry.
The High Court case focused on US company Myriad Genetics and its patent over the isolated BRCA-1 gene, which until recently was deemed valid.
McCullough Robertson partner Malcolm McBratney (pictured) says while the decision to classify genes as naturally occurring and 'discovered' rather than 'invented' is not surprising, medical companies should expect a change in the scope of their research.
"What this decision really means is that researchers will have more freedom to operate within the space," says McBratney.
"The question though is whether in the absence of IP protection being available we will see a shift away from research in these areas, because we know it takes a lot of money to bring drugs and other inventions onto the market."
Australia's position is now in line with the US Supreme Court, and it is expected that companies will seek to put money and effort in areas where greater protection of their research can be guaranteed.
"I think we will find a shift away from this space into where people are putting their research and commercial dollars, because if someone seeks to enforce a gene-related patent in the future this will clearly be a precedent that is thrown up in defence," says McBratney.
"Combined with the US decision and the potential uncertainty raised in the field, it might mean organisations choose not to do research in this area, but focus where they have more certainty of IP protection."
Key markets for the Australian life-sciences industry are in the US and Europe, with this decision expected to be persuasive in those countries where gene patenting is still held valid.
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