Analysis of “Junk DNA” Patents

Analysis of “Junk DNA” Patents: “Intron Sequence Analysis Method for Detection of Adjacent and Remote Locus Alleles as Haplotypes”

Authored by Carol Nottenburg (PhD, JD) and Jade Sharples (PhD), originally published July 2004.  CAMBIA staff including Marie Connett Porceddu (PhD) have done some updating since.  Technology landscapes, by their very nature, become outdated.  CAMBIA welcomes updates and inputs by others through the comments interface available on every page of this version of the technology landscape.

Copyright Owned by: CAMBIA and Carol Nottenburg, Cougar Patent Law

1. Objective

The focus of the present study is an analysis of the so-called “junk DNA” patents, invented by Malcolm Simons and owned by GTG (Genetic Technologies Limited), and the controversy surrounding the patents. These patents, more appropriately called “uses of non-coding DNA for detecting alleles”, have captured wide attention in the scientific world.

There are probably three main reasons for this. One is that DNA markers are widely used in some activities that are seen to be in the public interest:

  • breeding for crop and livestock improvement
  • diagnostic tools used in public health
  • biodiversity measurements

Secondly, the aggressive licensing strategy and practices of the patent owner GTG, an otherwise little-known Australian company, have attracted attention as being one of the first “patent trolls” in the life sciences
Third, there is reasonable amazement by scientists that patent offices could grant such broad patents.

Because of the widespread interest in these patents and the alarm expressed about the breadth of coverage, we have chosen to present not only an analysis of these patents but also discussion of the legal issues surrounding them. With this paper, we hope to raise the awareness and knowledge base of patent legalities in the scientific community.