Government contracted research

11.126 Although it is Australian Government policy for researchers or organisations whose research has been publicly funded to own any intellectual property generated by that research, this is not necessarily the case for research that is contracted by government. It is frequently a condition of a contract with a government department that the government retains any intellectual property rights.

11.127 For example, the Department of Health and Ageing indicated that it retains intellectual property rights in research that it has funded to ensure that relevant information can be widely disseminated. In these cases the Department grants non-exclusive licences to the intellectual property.[143]

11.128 IP 27 asked about the implications of government retaining ownership of intellectual property arising from contracted research.[144] A number of submissions objected to government retaining intellectual property in contracted research suggesting it was not best placed to commercialise patented genetic technology or ensure public benefits.[145]

ALRC’s views

11.129 The ALRC has insufficient evidence about government contracted genetic research to make a specific recommendation. It notes with approval the Department of Health and Ageing’s response that it seeks to disseminate widely the results of contracted research. Indeed this may be an important rationale for the government to contract research and could be an alternative to Recommendation 11–3.[146] However, where public benefit would be maximised through commercialisation of research, the government may not be best placed to do this. In such circumstances, the government may need to ensure that policies are in place to promote appropriate commercialisation.

[143]Department of Health and Ageing, Consultation, Canberra, 24 September 2003.

[144]Australian Law Reform Commission, Gene Patenting and Human Health, IP 27 (2003), Question 5–4.

[145]AusBiotech Ltd, Submission P58, 7 November 2003; A McBratney and others, Submission P47, 22 October 2003; Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Submission P39, 17 October 2003.

[146] DITR made a similar suggestion in submissions: Department of Industry Tourism and Resources, Submission P97, 19 April 2004.