2017/18 was an intriguing 12 months in the Australian patent landscape, with Courts being called upon to deliver decisions in relation to a number of issues that have not previously been judicially considered. The judgments delivered in this period have dealt with the patentability of methods claims deploying genetic information, patent term extensions for “Swiss-style” claims and whether applying to list a product on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme constitutes an act of patent infringement.
In Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation v BASF Plant Sciences GmbH  APO 83, the Australian Patent Office has once again confirmed that nucleic acids are patentable in Australia.
The opposed application relates to methods of producing polyunsaturated fatty acids in the seeds of transgenic plants. The application included claims directed to a recombinant nucleic acid molecule comprising nucleic acid sequences coding for a polypeptide with Δ6-desaturase activity, a polypeptide with Δ5-desaturase activity, a polypeptide with Δ6-elongase activity and a polypeptide with Δ5-elongase activity, as well as one or more copies of a promoter and a terminator.
A recent Patent Office decision in Arrowhead Research Corporation  APO 701 (“Arrowhead”) has confirmed that nucleic acids can still be patented in Australia.
Following the High Court of Australia’s ruling in D’Arcy v Myriad Genetics Inc  HCA 352 (“Myriad”), the Australian Patent Office has been broadly objecting to claims that encompass isolated nucleic acids. This practice has frustrated applicants and their attorneys who consider many of the objections to be reactionary, and not consistent with the facts and principles set out in Myriad. In a very recent decision, the Patent Office has confirmed that nucleic acids remain patentable subject matter in Australia by allowing claims directed to interfering RNA compositions.
In Myriad, the High Court clearly stated that it would not be concerning itself with “gene patents” generally, but with the disputed claims specifically (at ). Those claims defined isolated nucleic acids per se that were useful in the detection of breast cancer. While acknowledging that the claims defined a product created by human action, the High Court considered that the “substance” of the claims was information, which could not be the subject of a valid claim.