11.1 The Terms of Reference direct the ALRC to examine the impact of current patenting laws and practices related to ‘genes and genetic and related technologies’ on the application and commercialisation of research. In doing so, the ALRC is to consider reforms that may encourage the creation and use of intellectual property to further the health and economic benefits of genetic research.

11.2 This chapter examines the relationship between public funding of research and intellectual property ownership. The majority of human health-related biotechnology research conducted in Australia is funded by the Australian Government and occurs in research institutions, universities, health departments and government agencies (research organisations).

11.3 Where research is carried out in an organisation such as a university, hospital, or other government research organisation, normally the employer would be entitled to claim ownership of any intellectual property rights arising out of the research. This is a general principle of the common law and may also be found in relevant statutes, policies and employment agreements.

11.4 However, where the research has been funded from outside the organisation, a question could arise as to whether funding bodies should have rights to any resulting intellectual property. As a general rule, governments and their public funding agencies do not claim intellectual property rights over the results of the research they fund. Instead, they influence exploitation of the intellectual property through funding policy and the development of guiding principles.

11.5 This chapter considers the effectiveness of this approach in promoting research commercialisation to generate returns on public investment in research and in producing healthcare products and services for the Australian population. It discusses approaches taken in other jurisdictions and examines a number of reform options.