Centre for Law and Genetics

Patent Pool

The Innovation Pool in Australian Biotechnology: Assessing Strategies for Fostering Innovation Through Patenting and Patent Pooling

External Partners: Prof Reiko Aoiki (CI), Prof Geertrui Van Overwalle
External Collaborators: Prof Tim Caulfield, Prof John Walsh, Prof Beth Webster, Sarah Bull (RA - ANU)
UTAS Collaborators: Ben Mee (RA), , Prof Anthony Arundel, Dr Eric Iversen
Funding Source: ARC Grant DP0985077
Commencement Date: 2009
Project Status: Complete


Research Background

Lightbulbs on a tree There is great expectation about the future of biotechnology, both economically and in terms of the benefit it may provide to society. In the health sector, genetic diagnostic testing, gene therapy and gene-based drug development all have the potential to reduce suffering caused by disease. Arguably, a robust patent system is crucial in providing the necessary incentive to encourage innovation in this field. However, patenting in biotechnology is controversial, particularly because it is unclear whether patents and other innovation tools actually inhibit rather than facilitate biotechnology research and translational developments.

About the Project

This study, conducted between 2009 and 2014, involved an exploration of the relationship between patenting, patent management and innovation in the Australian biotechnology industry, including analysis of the legal, regulatory and economic environments. A key aim was to assess for the need to reform regulatory frameworks in order to foster innovation in the biotechnology industry, and to evaluate the use of patent pools.

The project came at a time when much reform was being undertaken in Australia in the patent area. As such the CIs highly prioritised the writing of submissions to public inquiries to assist in law reform.

Key analyses of the project

Mapping the Australian biotechnology industry landscape, through searches of web-based information, company documentation, use of other publicly available information, patent analysis and clinical trials analysis.

Statistical analysis of different industry sectors in an Australia-wide inventor survey

Conduct of face to face interviews with biotech industry participants, including CEOs, intellectual property mangers and business managers.

Conduct of face to face interviews and surveys with providers of diagnostic genetic testing services.

Doctrinal and policy analysis of patent law, with particular focus on law reform proposals and recent case law.


The CIs on this project actively engaged in many law reform debates. This included making written and oral submissions to six law reform bodies during the time this project was active.

The CIs presented at a number of conferences including the European Policy on Intellectual Property Annual Conference (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), the Asia Pacific Innovation Conference (2012), the Human Genome Meeting: Genetics and Genomics in Personalized Medicine (2012) and various workshops in the UK, Australia and the US.


Opportunities for further research or PhD study

Although this project has concluded, Professor Dianne Nicol and Dr Jane Nielsen welcome inquiries for patent focused PhD study.