The deadline for submissions is 25 February 2011, and the preferred method of submission is online, although submissions may also be made via email to email@example.com or post.
IMPACT OF THE BILL
AusBiotech contends (and we are inclined to agree) that:
If the legislative amendment is progressed in its current form, it would have far-reaching and unintended consequences across the industry, impacting almost every member; including those developing novel therapies, tests, vaccines, and even medical device companies with drug delivery platforms.It is therefore important that stakeholders, whether in favour of or opposed to 'gene patents', provide constructive input to the Senate Committee.
We expressed the view previously that the current Bill was unlikely to make significant progress, in part because it undermines a number of other ongoing activities, including the ACIP Review of Patentable Subject Matter, and IP Australia's ongoing program of patent law reform. Indeed, we anticipate that IP Australia may prepare its own submission to the Committee, and we would not be surprised if these were quite critical of the proposed amendments to the Patents Act 1990.
Nonetheless, a Senate Committee inquiry is a reasonably significant step, considering the time and resources involved, which can only serve to increase the seriousness with which the Bill is viewed.
REASONS FOR REFERENCE
The terms of reference for the inquiry are broad. In fact, there are no specific objectives stated beyond 'inquiry and report'. Given the brevity of the Bill, this might seem adequate. However, considering the controversial nature of the subject matter the Committee may well find itself inundated with extensive submissions of similar scope to those already considered by the Senate Community Affairs Committee.
The probability of this becoming a de facto further inquiry into gene patents generally is exacerbated by the reasons for reference. According to the official Senate Hansard of 26 November 2010 (page 2379), the Bill was referred to allow for possible submissions and evidence from:
- Cancer Council Australia
- Dr Luigi Palombi (ANU)
- Breast Cancer Action Group
- National Breast Cancer Foundation
- Breast Cancer Network of Australia
- Australian Gene Ethics Network
- Dr Leslie Cannold ACCC
- Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute
- Walter and Eliza Hall Institute
- Cancer Voices
- Maurice Blackburn
- Professor Ian Frazer
- Australian Law Reform Commission
- Genetic Technologies Ltd
- Intellectual property lawyers
- Civil liberties groups
If the full spectrum of interested individuals and representative organisations makes submissions, the Committee will certainly have its work cut out!
Details of the inquiry, including further information on preparing suitable submissions, are available on the Australian Parliament web site.
AusBiotech's call for submissions can be found on their web site.
We will keep an eye on the inquiry, and report any further developments.