What is a Biological Patent?
A biological patent is a patent filed for an invention in biology. It prevents others from using the protected intellectual property (IP) for a limited amount of time (typically 20 years.) Biological patents cover a wide array of types of inventions and innovations, such as sequences in patents, medications, technologies, gene therapies, and beyond.
Depending on the nature of the patent, ethical issues may arise. A common example is natural occurrences, such as DNA-related patents, with the argument made that since there’s technically no invention, there should be no patent. However, that does not limit the ability to continue with biological patents as workarounds exist, like patenting tests to detect abnormalities or using chemical structure searching. A thorough patent search can uncover patent laws in specific jurisdictions and can provide clarity on whether an invention or innovation can be filed as a biological patent.
Other Names for Biological Patent:
- Gene patent
- DNA patent
- Biotechnology patent
- Biodiversity prospecting
- Genetic invention
- Drug licensing
- Life sciences patent
Why is a Biological Patent Important?
Biological patents are important because they enable innovators to protect research and development related to CRISPR technology, drugs for treating different types of cancers, and genetically modified foods. And because biology is concerned with everything to do with life, patents in those areas comprise a large share of the market. In fact, the European Patent Office (EPO) wrote that “eight out of the top 10 best-selling medicaments [in 2020] were biological in origin and covered by patents.”
Another reason why biological patents are important is because of how expensive drug inventions and approvals are. Because the process is so costly, patents, with their exclusive rights, are an excellent way of recouping investments. Biological patents can also prevent others from illegally creating copycats that may carry potentially dangerous side effects.
As with patents in different categories, the same filing standards must be met, with rules depending on the jurisdiction in which the patent was filed. But typically, the biological patent should be:
- Different from the source material in some way, such as creating a pure culture of a material naturally found in the environment.
- Useful in some way, as opposed to simply being a discovery, e.g., using insulin to treat diabetes.
- New and separate from a subject or innovation previously publicly disclosed. In turn, the biological patent should also contain sufficient information so that others can replicate the product or process, as well as not infringe on the original patent.
- Novel in relation to existing products, technologies, and inventions. Research and development (R&D) usually covers this.
No matter what the jurisdiction or laws are for biological patents, innovators can greatly streamline the process by using dedicated software designed to connect millions of data points, making it far easier, faster, and simpler to work with biological patents.