The road from a biotech startup to a profitable company is no walk in the park. Raising capital isn’t the only issue that biotech startups face. Working on moving your idea from inside the lab to the commercial sphere takes a significant amount of time and hard work and is why you should consider patenting your idea.

What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology refers to the use of living organisms or their products to enhance or improve human health and the environment which we live. It involves the use of cellular and molecular biology to transform or enhance products or processes, and is divided into the following subcategories:

  • Medical,
  • Industrial, and
  • Agricultural.

Together, these create a bio-economy, whereby biologically active material is manipulated at a molecular level to benefit and create industrial products or processes in these areas, contributing to economic gain. Biotechnological breakthroughs are essential for advancement in many different industries, and a focus on scientific research in the industry can foster growth in Australia’s bio-economy.

Why Patent?

A Patent establishes clear ownership and title of your biotechnology and is important to protect an investor’s interest in your technology. A patent legally ensures that your biotech remains a unique invention.

What Are the Benefits?

Patentable inventions attract investors to move them to the commercial stage. If you don’t take steps to protect your idea, then regardless of its innovation or utility, investors may not want to take such a risk. Patenting biotech provides an incentive for scientific researchers to continue their work.

Big Fish Little Fish

A common misconception is that only large pharmaceutical or biotech companies can afford patents. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation statement focused on biotechnology and with the launch of Australia’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, Patenting is more important than ever. Patenting provides your biotech startup a commercial advantage and can help attract investors. On average, the presence of a patent increases the returns to an investment by around 50%.

Protecting biotech is also paramount to driving the next ideas boom in Australia as it helps inventions reach the market and, in turn, fosters growth in the industry.

How Can I Protect my Biotechnology?

Under section 18(1) of the Patents Act 1990 (Cth), your biotech invention will be eligible for standard patent protection if it meets the following criteria:

  • It’s an invention,
  • It’s novel,
  • It involves an inventive step, and
  • It’s useful.

If you are filing for an innovation patent, your biotechnology invention must involve an innovative rather than inventive step.

What Biotech Inventions Are Patentable?

You might be able to patent your biotech invention if a technical intervention to living organisms and cell cultures resulted in an artificial state of affairs, which does not occur in nature.

The following living things are considered patentable:

  • Micro-organisms in a pure culture satisfy the requirement for technical intervention and are patentable. Humans have used micro-organisms since first making bread with yeast. For instance, the processes using microorganisms are patentable, and you can apply for a standard or innovative patent.

  • Therapeutic treatments that have processes or methods for medical treatment of the human body having economic utility are patentable. Again, you can apply for a standard or innovative patent for an invention in this category.

  • The Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 (Cth) may protect plants that have originated from traditional techniques but are a new variety. Patent protection may be more suitable for plants derived from high technology. A standard patent may be used for inventions in this category.

  • New animals excluding humans may be patentable, particularly with the rise of genetic engineering. Applicants can file for a standard patent in this category.

Key Takeaways

In short, if you are a scientific researcher in the biotechnology field, consider patenting.

If you are a member of the general public, you should look forward to Australia’s future bio-economy and how it will advance industry, with patenting playing an integral role in funding and development.

Questions about your biotech startup or patenting your idea? Get in touch or share your thoughts with us @legalvision_au.

Sophie Glover

Next Steps

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