The Federation Press

Patent Law and Biological Inventions


Scientific breakthroughs, particularly in biotechnology, are putting huge pressures on patent law. In a spectacular example in 2000, the English poet and part-time casino waitress, Donna MacLean, sought a patent application in respect of herself. She explained that she had satisfied the usual patent criteria: she was novel, inventive and useful, and had many industrial applications.

This collection considers a wide range of biological inventions - micro-organisms, plants and flowers, transgenic animals, genes, express sequence tags and research tools, as well as genetic diagnostic tests and pharmaceutical drugs.

It compares and contrasts the approaches of different jurisdictions. American and Canadian developments are considered and there is a particular focus on the complexities of the 1998 European Union Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions, together with decisions of member states, such as The Netherlands, and peripheral states, like Iceland. The book also focuses on recent developments in Australia – especially in the wake of parallel policy inquiries into gene patents and access to genetic resources.

Patent Law and Biological Inventions is a special issue (Volume 24 No 1) of the journal Law in Context.


There is an emphasis on different policy approaches [to patent law] across jurisdictions ... The different approaches are discussed and analysed very well. There is also extensive discussion of the commercialisation of gene patents and drug. [sic] Much of the analysis is at an academic level – not a criticism – and likely to be of little value to the practising lawyer. Those involved in policy development on the other hand will find the various discussions useful and challenging. An essay by Dianne Nicol and Janet Hope operates at a more practical level in its detailed discussion of legal mechanisms available to facilitate the use of patented inventions. There is a useful discussion of compulsory licensing, cross licensing, open source licensing and “intellectual property exchange clearing houses”. ... The presentation of concepts in relatively short essays simplifies the task for the reader by presenting the analysis in an easily digested size. Highly recommended as an introduction to a wide range of thinking in an increasingly relevant area to humankind. - Law Letter (Journal of the Law Society of Tasmania), Winter 2007

Table of Contents

After the Gold Rush: Patent Law and Biological Inventions
Matthew Rimmer

European Bio-Protection Laws: Rebels with a Cause
Margaret Llewelyn

Essential Derivation, Law and the Limits of Science
Jay Sanderson

Rules v Standards for Patent Law in the Plant Sciences
Mark D Janis

Wind of Change: In re Fisher and the Evolution of the American Biotechnology Patent Law
Yann Joly

Cooperative Strategies for Facilitating Use of Patented Inventions in Biotechnology
Dianne Nicol and Janet Hope

Something is Rotten in the State of Iceland: deCODE Genetics, Population Research and Informed Consent
Jennifer French

Regulating Access to Biological Resources: The Market Failure for Biodiversity Conservation
Charles Lawson

Of interest...