HL Deb 11 November 1999 vol 606 cc194-5WA
Lord Kennet

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to prevent the patenting of one third of the human genome by a private company in the United States. [HL4511]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville)

Patent rights are confined to the territory of the country in which they are granted. Decisions to grant rights, and determination of the scope of such rights, is a matter for the national authorities to which applications for patents are made.

There are certain global norms which are followed by national authorities, including those of the United States. Primarily, patents are granted only for technical inventions. This means that mere discovery that something exists in nature, without any accompanying technical step, would not be afforded patent rights. Secondly, patents are granted only for inventions which are new, and which are not obvious to others working in the same technical field.

It is a matter solely for the United States authorities to interpret these criteria in relation to applications for patents, including those concerning the human genome. Rights granted in the United States, or decisions not to grant rights, do not create or affect rights in this country or elsewhere.