HC Deb 01 February 1994 vol 236 cc619-20W
Dr. Moonie

To ask the President of the Board of Trade what guidelines his office has produced on the patenting of human genes; what discussions he has had on this subject with his European counterparts; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McLoughlin

[holding answer 28 January 1994]: In accordance with current practice, patents may be granted for inventions relating to human genes of identified function and outside the body if they comply with the usual requirements of patentability—that is, novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability.

Agreement has now been reached within the framework of the European Council on a draft EC directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions, which sets out to harmonise what is patentable in this area along the lines mentioned above. Council is expected to adopt a formal common position shortly.

I understand that the Office of Science and Technology supports the policy of the Medical Research Council in not filing any futher patent applications for DNA sequences of unknown function. The Office of Science and Technology has not, however, produced any guidelines on when patents on human genes should be sought.

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