US Patent Policy Unaffected by US/UK Statement on Human Gene Sequence Data

Press Release

Brigid Quinn

The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) reaffirmed today that United States patent policy remains unaffected by Tuesday's historic joint statement issued by the United States and the United Kingdom urging that "raw fundamental data on the human genome...should be made freely available to scientists everywhere."

"Genes and other genomic inventions remain patentable," said Q. Todd Dickinson, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks, "so long as they meet the statutory criteria of utility, novelty and non-obviousness. Genes and genomic inventions that were patentable last week continue to be patentable this week, under the same set of rules," he added.

Separate and apart from Tuesday's agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom, the PTO published on December 21, 1999, revised interim guidelines related to the utility requirement for patent claims on genomic and other biotechnological inventions. These guidelines, which have been in use for some time, amplify and clarify the ground rules for establishing patentable claims in this area. The 90-day public comment period on the guidelines runs through March 22, 2000.

The Utility Guidelines, and the related Written Description Guidelines, are available on

The USPTO is the Commerce Department's user fee-funded bureau that administers laws relevant to granting patents and registering trademarks. The USPTO also advises the Secretary of Commerce, the President of the United States, and the administration on patent, trademark and copyright protection, and on trade-related aspects of intellectual property. Over 6 million patents have been issued since the first patent in 1790. Last year, the USPTO issued 161,000 patents and registered 104,000 trademarks.

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