Patents on antibiotic resistance genes


Despite the existence of alternative methods for selection of transgenic organisms, antibiotic resistance genes are still widely used as selectable markers because they are highly efficient, economical and straightforward. Therefore, they are still considered a very valuable tool at experimental and commercial levels. As with many enabling technologies, antibiotic resistance genes are proprietary technologies in the hands of a few entities.

The scope of patent protection ranges from the very broadly claimed use of any antibiotic resistance gene in plant transformation to the more restrictive use of particular antibiotic resistance systems in conjunction with particular promoters and selective agents.

The present paper analyses the extent of patent protection on:

  • the use of any antibiotic resistance gene, mainly for plant transformation; and
  • the most commonly used antibiotic resistance marker genes: neomycin phosphotransferase II (nptII) and hygromycin phosphotransferase (hpt).

The analysis concentrates on the following aspects:

  • the entities that have been granted patents or have filed applications in the area;
  • the geographical coverage of the patents;
  • the nature of the inventions, whether they are products or processes or both, their components and limits;
  • comparison between the protected inventions noting overlaps and differences; and
  • some implications of dominant patents in this area.

The topics of analysis are Antibiotic resistance genes in general;

  • Neomycin phosphotransferase gene;
  • Hygromycin phosphotransferase gene;
  • Dominant patents on antibiotic resistance genes.