12.1 The Terms of Reference direct the ALRC to consider the impact of patent laws and practices related to genes and genetic and related technologies on the conduct of research. This chapter considers whether gene patents may have a ‘chilling effect’ on the conduct of research and, if so, what reforms may be needed to address this concern.

12.2 Research may be conducted at all stages of the continuum from basic research to research directed towards marketable end products. This chapter begins by briefly describing the research continuum, the different interests of those involved in ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ research and inventions, and the different ways in which they may experience the impact of patent laws and practices. The chapter discusses the general impact of gene patents on research, with reference to Australian and international empirical studies and the views expressed in submissions. The chapter describes the specific subject matter and claims of gene patents that are most likely to hinder research—that is, broad patents on upstream or ‘foundational’ inventions and patents on research tools.

12.3 The ALRC recommends a specific initiative in relation to research tools developed through publicly funded research. The chapter also highlights recommendations made elsewhere in this Report to address the potential for future harm to genetic research that may be attributable to gene patenting.