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

62 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2007 Last revised: 5 Dec 2014

See all articles by Matthew Rimmer

Matthew Rimmer

Queensland University of Technology (QUT)


This article considers the recent international controversy over the patents held by a Melbourne firm, Genetic Technologies Limited (GTG), in respect of non-coding DNA and genomic mapping. It explores the ramifications of the GTG dispute in terms of licensing, litigation and policy reform, and - as a result of this dispute - the perceived conflict between law and science. GTG has embarked upon an ambitious licensing program with twenty seven commercial licensees and five research licensees. Most significantly, GTG has obtained an exclusive licence from Myriad Genetics to use and exploit its medical diagnostics in Australia, New Zealand, and the Asia-Pacific region. In the US, GTG brought a legal action for patent infringement against the Applera Corporation and its subsidiaries. In response, Applera counterclaimed that the patents of GTG were invalid because they failed to comply with the requirements of US patent law, such as novelty, inventive step, and written specifications. In New Zealand, the Auckland District Health Board brought legal action in the High Court, seeking a declaration that the patents of GTG were invalid, and that, in any case, the Board has not infringed them. The New Zealand Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Economic Development have reported to Cabinet on the issues relating to the patenting of genetic material. Similarly, the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) has also engaged in an inquiry into gene patents and human health; and the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) has considered whether there should be a new defence in respect of experimental use and research.

Keywords: Patent Law, Non-Coding DNA, gene patents, genomic mapping, haplotyping, novelty, inventive step, defence of experimental use

Suggested Citation

Rimmer, Matthew, The Alchemy of Junk: Patent Law and Non-Coding DNA. University of Ottawa Law & Technology Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 539-599, 2006, 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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