18.1 Chapter 17 described the structure and features of the biotechnology industry in Australia. As discussed in that chapter, the biotechnology industry (including pharmaceuticals) is heavily dependent on patents. The Australian biotechnology sector is also primarily an upstream industry, with many companies holding intellectual property as their only or main asset.

18.2 This chapter examines the impact of patents on the downstream section of the biotechnology sector, which refers to companies focused on developing commercial products such as drugs, tests and therapies. It considers a number of ways in which gene patents may act as a barrier to commercial development of genetic research, including through patent thickets, royalty stacking, broad patents, reach-through provisions, blocking and dependent patents. The chapter also considers licensing practices, investment issues and commercialisation expertise within the sector.