Intellectual Property and Biotechnology: Biological Inventions

Cheltenham and Northampton (MA): Edward Elgar, 2008

Posted: 14 Mar 2008 Last revised: 1 Jun 2018

See all articles by Matthew Rimmer

Matthew Rimmer

Queensland University of Technology (QUT)

Date Written: 2008


This book documents and evaluates the dramatic expansion of intellectual property law to accommodate various forms of biotechnology from micro-organisms, plants, and animals to human genes and stem cells. It makes a unique theoretical contribution to the controversial public debate over the commercialisation of biological inventions.

The author also considers the contradictions between the Supreme Court of Canada rulings in respect of the Harvard Oncomouse, and genetically modified canola. He explores law, policy, and practice in both Australia and New Zealand in respect to gene patents and non-coding DNA. This study charts the rebellion against the European Union Biotechnology Directive - particularly in respect of Myriad Genetics' BRCA1 and BRCA2 patents, and stem cell patent applications. The book also considers whether patent law will accommodate frontier technologies - such as bioinformatics, haplotype mapping, proteomics, pharmacogenomics, and nanotechnology.

Intellectual Property and Biotechnology will be of prime interest to lawyers and patent attorneys, scientists and researchers, business managers and technology transfer specialists.


1. Anything Under the Sun: Patent Law and Micro-Organisms

2. Franklin Barley: Patent Law and Plant Breeder's Rights

3. The Human Chimera Patent Initiative: Patent Law and Animals

4. The Storehouse of Knowledge: Patent Law, Scientific Discoveries, and Products of Nature

5. The Book of Life: Patent Law and the Human Genome Project

6. The Dilettante's Defence: Patent Law, Research Tools, and Experimental Use

7. The Utah Saints: Patent Law and Genetic Testing

8. The Alchemy of Junk: Patent Law and Non-Coding DNA

9. Still Life with Stem Cells: Patent Law and Human Embryos

Conclusion. Blue Sky Research: Patent Law and Frontier Technologies


"Rimmer's new book is a timely and very thought-provoking analysis of patent law and biotechnology and asks a very serious question: can a 19th century patent system adequately deal with a 21st century industry".

Kate McDonald, Australian Life Scientist

"Rimmer's book provides a valuable resource in addressing these questions and incorporates an extensive bibliography and several annotated chapters that run the gambit from stem cells to medical diagnostics. He utilises a strongly comparative approach, often first tracing the historical development of certain basic patent doctrines, and analysing the approach various jurisdictions, generally Canada, the US, and Australia, have taken with regards to biological inventions... Throughout Rimmer presents a panorama of some of the most important issues related to patents and biotechnology. A reader will likely be intrigued to see which way the pendulum swings on these issues in the near future. In conclusion, Rimmer's book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the issues and debate related to biological inventions, regardless of which side the reader is on."

Stefan Miller, Journal of Commercial Biotechnology

"This book gives an excellent account of the most celebrated biotechnology cases from three continents, and for this alone is to be thoroughly recommended. Intellectual property practitioners, who do not agree with the author's conclusions, should be able and willing to say why - only then can the patent profession itself play a role in influencing public opinion on these controversial issues."

David Rogers, the European Intellectual Property Review.

"Considering the technical nature of the topic and the unfamiliarity with its vocabulary to most readers, the author has done an extremely good job. He explains the subject in an open, accessible manner and leads the reader from the known to the unknown rather than dropping him into the middle of it. "

Jeremy Phillips, IP Kat

"Rimmer seeks to air the theories that abound, discuss them and see not only what he concludes himself from his extensive reading and research (the bibliography runs to an impressive 55 pages), but also to throw out some questions to the reader. He includes some fun and diverting quotes... Rimmer has put a great deal of thought and effort into this series of chapters. For those looking at how to reform, direct and develop laws in relation to biotechnology, this book is brimming with ideas, suggestions and recommendations of what to do next."

Rebecca Halford-Harrison, the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents Journal

Keywords: Patent Law, Micro-organisms, Plant Breeders' Rights, GM Crops, Transgenic animals, Human-Animal Chimera, Scientific Discoveries, Abstract Ideas, Methods of Human Treatment, Gene Patents, ESTs, Research Tools, Experimental Use, Genetic Testing, Non-Coding DNA, Stem Cell Patents, Frontier Technologies

Suggested Citation

Rimmer, Matthew, Intellectual Property and Biotechnology: Biological Inventions (2008). Cheltenham and Northampton (MA): Edward Elgar, 2008, Available at SSRN:

Matthew Rimmer (Contact Author)

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) ( email )

Level 4, C Block Gardens Point
2 George St
Brisbane, Queensland QLD 4000

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