Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Gene Jousting

By Simon Grose

To patent or not to patent? That is the question.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

The internet’s culture of free access has changed the game for publishers trying to protect their intellectual property. From Australasian Science to News Limited they are placing content behind paywalls and asking people to pay at the gate.

As a director of News Limited, Lachlan Murdoch is at the forefront of efforts by publishers to get a fair return for the content they create. Father Rupert has led the charge.

So Lachlan may have harboured guilt about logical inconsistency when he accompanied his wife Sarah to Canberra last year for a media call. As Patron of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Sarah was adding her celebrity status to a campaign to outlaw patents relating to human genes. Fees charged for diagnostic services by a company with patents over genes associated with breast cancer provoked her concern.

Shadow Health Minister Peter Dutton backed the campaign, promising to introduce legislation to ensure that patents are granted “for inventions, not discoveries”.

“Naturally occurring human genes are not invented in the laboratory, and as such should not be subject to a patent,” he said.

In November 2008 a Senate committee began an inquiry into gene patents. After a hold-up for the 2010 election, it issued its report in November.

It had to weigh the views of Murdoch and Dutton against the reality that gene patenting...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (