Patents and gene technology
Just like most other innovations that require a significant investment of time and resources, the processes and techniques used in gene technology, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be eligible for patent protection.
What are patents?
Patents give the owner of an invention or discovery the exclusive right to benefit commercially from their innovation for the life of the patent. This is up to 20 years for a standard patent. After a patent expires, the invention or innovation becomes free for others to use.
Patents are not automatically granted, nor are all innovations eligible for patents. Applications must be submitted to the appropriate government agency. In Australia this is IP Australia.
Patent applications can be costly and take many years to be processed.
Patents give the owner of an invention or discovery the exclusive right to benefit commercially from their innovation for the life of the patent.
Patents are only valid in the country in which they have been granted; they must be applied for in each country where protection is desired.
By owning international patents, Australia is able to operate and trade in the world intellectual property environment, giving Australian scientists access to many of the world's latest innovations.
Access to innovation
Patents require inventors to provide a detailed description of their invention/innovation which is made public through the patent register maintained by IP Australia. In this way, the patent system allows other researchers to learn from the innovation.
CSIRO's GM patents
CSIRO currently holds several gene technology patents including one for modified starch in cereals, which can promote bowel health and another for modified oils in a range of crops, which can lead to improved human health benefits.
At CSIRO, income from patented technology (whether from gene technology or not) is returned to fund further research within CSIRO for the benefit of the Australian community.