MLA welcomes Federal Court decision on cattle patents

Beef Central, 09/02/2018

Meat & Livestock Australia has welcomed today’s decision in the Federal Court of Australia that effectively requires Cargill USA and Branhaven LLC to wind back the broad scope of their Australian patent application for cattle selection methods.

MLA commenced legal proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia in 2016 on behalf of industry to appeal an Australian Patent Office decision to allow the patent application to be granted.

MLA argued, among other things, that the scope of the claims of the patent application were unclear and, as a result, so broad that they would inhibit genomic selection for all cattle production traits in Australia.

In the reasons for judgment today, the Court invited Cargill USA and Branhaven LLC to amend the patent application to overcome the lack of clarity in the proposed patent claims. Both parties are due to return to court within 21 days to address the Court on the issue of amendment of the patent application.

MLA said it will “continue to pursue every option to protect the genetic advancement of Australia’s beef herd”.

Background information provided by MLA:

The Cargill/Branhaven patent application is titled ‘Compositions, methods and systems for inferring bovine traits’ and covers “Cattle Selection Methods’.  The broadest of the claims in the application encompasses a method for identifying a trait of a bovine subject from a nucleic acid sample of the bovine subject by the use of naturally occurring genetic markers called single nucleotide polymorphisms.

MLA opposed the grant of the patent application in the Australian Patent Office because of the potential impact on industry’s ability to adopt and continue to use standard cattle genomic tools.  MLA’s opposition was unsuccessful and the Australian Patent Office subsequently indicated its intention to allow the patent application to proceed in May 2016.

MLA appealed the Patent Office’s decision to the Federal Court of Australia.  MLA undertook the legal proceedings because of its concerns that there would be significant scientific and financial implications for research agencies and the industry if the patent application proceeded to grant.  At a minimum, MLA formed the view that the breadth of the proposed patent claims would discourage or hamper industry research into the natural genetic makeup of cattle and the continued progress of Australia’s national genetic improvement programs.

MLA’s investment in genomic research and development – on behalf of its levy payers and the Australian Government which matches industry’s research investment – is substantial and currently accounts for approximately 15% of MLA’s total on-farm R&D portfolio.

Source: MLA. To view details of the patent application, visit this link.

Beef Central first reported on this story in 2016 – see our original article here


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  1. Paul Wood, 11/02/2018

    This is a good outcome for all of the livestock industries. Thanks to MLA for leading this challenge.

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