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Abstract

Central to an assessment about how health-related databases should be regulated is the potential to commodify databases and the information in those databases through intellectual property, and in particular, patents for inventions under the Patents Act 1990 (Cth). Patents potentially provide more comprehensive property-like privileges over databases than copyright. In particular, patents have the potential to control the use and re-use of information, prevent independent invention and re-engineering of databases and have no ‘fair use’ exemption. In these circumstances a patent may be more desirable to those creating and exploiting databases, while posing more significant restrictions on access and use of the database information. This article investigates the possibility of patenting computer-based databases and the information in those databases and concludes that there is considerable potential for patents to apply to both databases (data structures and software), and in some cases the information per se in those databases. This conclusion suggests that the role of patents needs to be taken into account when considering the possible regulation of computer-based health-related databases.

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