HC Deb 23 March 1999 vol 328 cc138-9W
Mr. Baker

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on his policy in respect of gene patenting. [74830]

Mr. Battle

[holding answer 5 March 1999]: The Patents Act 1977 lays down the requirements which must be met to obtain patents for inventions in all fields of technology. Patents may be obtained for inventions which are new, not obvious and have industrial applicability. However, the Act excludes certain matter from patent rights. This includes plant and animal varieties and discoveries where there is no accompanying technical step, such as the mere discovery that a gene exists in nature. Any patent can be challenged before the courts, on the grounds that it does not meet the requirements laid down by the Patents Act. In July 1998, an EC Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions was adopted. This Directive clarifies and harmonises the patent legislation as it applies to biotechnological inventions in all Member States. However, the Directive will not change what is and what is not currently patentable in the United Kingdom.