The High Court’s unanimous decision today (7/10) that isolating the BRCA1 gene mutation was not a 'patentable invention' should help to ensure that Australian healthcare consumers are protected from commercial gene monopolies.
Director of Public Policy at Cancer Council Australia, Paul Grogan, said the court’s ruling was a great result for the Australian public, and also for healthcare providers and biomedical researchers.
"We need clarity in patent law in Australia – and hopefully the unanimity of today’s High Court ruling provides that," Mr Grogan said. "Although the BRCA patents are about to expire, more cases like this could arise, so it is critical that the law is applied in the same consistent manner – to protect the rights of healthcare consumers, public laboratories and independent researchers.
"The emphatic nature of the ruling should make it clear that genetic materials, whether in their pure form or isolated, and the tests to identify them, should never be subject to commercial monopolisation."
Mr Grogan said the outcome was a great credit to Yvonne D’Arcy, an individual who took on a multinational biotechnology firm in the interests of healthcare consumers everywhere.
"It should also be noted that the Australian High Court’s decision was consistent with the decision of the US Supreme Court. If the court had upheld the validity of the BRCA1 patent, Australia would have been out of step with the US – straight after signing the Trans-Pacific trade deal with the US and insisting that Australians are not disadvantaged by intellectual property arrangements that could compromise access to pharmaceuticals and medical technology.
"Hopefully, governments in all countries will agree that the patent system is designed to reward invention – not processes to find materials that already exist in our biology."