The Patent Offices treat transgenic plants and transgenic animals as complex chemical compositions.

For example, if the insertion of a foreign gene into a known organism produces a novel and non-obvious transgenic organism, then that organism is potentially patentable.


Transgenic plants

The development of plants with increased drought or salt tolerance, or plants with enhanced nutrient contents, are important goals for the agro-biotech industries. The production of crops with such features may help to feed the Earth’s ever-increasing population.

Patent claims often refer to plants having genes which code for desirable traits, where the genes have been isolated from a first plant and inserted into a second plant in order to confer those traits on that second plant. For example:

  1. A transgenic rice plant which comprises a gene encoding [foreign protein] stably integrated into its genome.

Transgenic animals

Transgenic animals are generally claimed in the same way as transgenic plants, that is by reference to a parent animal and the new gene which has been inserted into it. For example:

  1. A transgenic cow comprising a nucleotide sequence encoding human insulin, wherein the nucleotide sequence is inserted into the cow’s genome in such a way that human insulin is secreted into the cow’s milk.

However, most Patent Offices do not allow claims to cover humans (on morality grounds). Hence any patent claims covering transgenic animals or transgenic mammals need to exclude humans, e.g. by claiming “a non-human transgenic animal” or “a non-human transgenic mammal”.