Griffith Hack principal Karen Sinclair recently joined host Lisa Leong on the From Idea to Intellectual Property podcast series to discuss the emerging trends and key issues in the area of synthetic biology.

About the episode

Scientists commenced mapping the human genome in 1990, and while we’ve come a long way since then, we’re really only just starting out on the journey of using genetic material to solve problems in medicine, manufacturing and agriculture.

However, as Griffith Hack Principal Karen Sinclair explains to host Lisa Leong, since mapping genetic material went mainstream getting granted patent protection for genetic sequences has become more complex. The advent of synthetic biology has enabled a great leap forward; enabling scientists to redesign sequences to produce replicas or adjusted versions of a biological outcome. And, importantly, to enable the “novelty” and “inventiveness” tests of patent law to be fulfilled.

The technology comes with its fair share of scientific and ethical conundrums, and Karen explains the vital role of IP both in protecting the investment of the people working in this ground-breaking field, and ensuring ethical boundaries aren’t breached.

Listen to the episode via the player below, or view the full series over at Podbean:

About the podcast series

From Idea to Intellectual Property explores today’s big ideas through the lens of the intellectual property specialists who work with inventors and innovators to bring their ideas to reality. 

Hosted by broadcaster, author, and former IP lawyer Lisa Leong, each episode is a conversation with an expert from IPH Limited, Asia Pacific’s leading intellectual property services group, about a global trend or an industry with global impact.  Guests will share first-hand insights on what’s involved in turning an idea into a commercial reality, in particular how to protect an inventors’ IP, and what current trends can tell us about what we can expect from future innovation.

It is with great sadness that we share the news of the passing of Tony Ward – a past Principal and Chairman of Griffith Hack, inspiring colleague, and valued friend.

Tony joined the Melbourne office of the firm, then known as Clement Hack & Co, in 1979, and became a Principal in 1980. He was a highly regarded patent attorney in mechanical engineering, who developed strong relationships with his clients.

In the late 1980s, Tony was involved in setting up the Perth office of Griffith Hack together with other principals of the firm. He served as Chairman of the Board of Griffith Hack for several years until his retirement in 2013.

Following his retirement, Tony continued at Griffith Hack as a consultant providing education to trainee and junior attorneys for several years. He was heavily involved in educating the next generation of patent attorneys throughout his career, providing tutorials on the validity and interpretation of patent specifications and drafting.

He also taught formal courses on these topics at the University of Melbourne and Monash University, and the IPTA Academy of Education.

Tony was the President of the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia (IPTA) from 2006-2007, and became a Distinguished Fellow of IPTA in 2013. He was a great representative of Griffith Hack in this environment, and participated fully in all IPTA events and activities.

Tony was an integral part of the strong culture and team spirit at Griffith Hack. He nurtured team camaraderie at all levels and enjoyed leading internal social events including the Melbourne Cup draw and annual Christmas party.

Tony is survived by his wife Alison, his children Hannah and Jake, his grandchildren. Our thoughts are with them, his friends and former colleagues at this sad time.

Griffith Hack is proud to announce the promotion of five team members, including the elevation of Jennifer Wyndham-Wheeler to principal. These promotions are effective from July 1, 2022.

Along with Jennifer, Sarah Cox and Craig Cleghorn have been promoted to senior associate, and Dr Bryan Leaw and Matthew McTiernan have been promoted to associate.

“I would like to congratulate Jenny, Sarah, Craig, Bryan and Matt on their promotions,” said Griffith Hack’s managing director Aaron LePoidevin. “This recognition is extremely well deserved and reflects the important contribution each of them has made to our firm and to our clients.”

“Additionally, they all exemplify the high-performing, innovative and collegiate culture we have here at Griffith Hack. I wish them all continued success as they deliver positive outcomes for our clients.”

Jennifer’s elevation to principal now means that Griffith Hack has 55% of principals who identify female, further enhancing our position as a leading firm for gender equality.

Find out more about our promoted team members:

Jennifer Wyndham-Wheeler – Principal
Jenny is a patent attorney in our Engineering & ICT team who joined Griffith Hack in 2010 as a Trainee Patent Attorney. Jennifer has technical qualifications in industrial engineering and was recognised as a Rising Star in IP by Managing IP from 2018-2020. See Jenny’s bio here.

Sarah Cox – Senior Associate
Sarah is a patent attorney in our ChemLife team with technical qualifications in biomedical science. See Sarah’s bio here.

Craig Gleghorn – Senior Associate
Craig is a patent attorney in our Engineering & ICT team with a technical background in physics and specific expertise in acoustics. See Craig’s bio here.

Dr Bryan Leaw – Associate
Bryan is a patent attorney in our ChemLife team with technical qualifications in biomedical science and a PhD in Neuroscience. See Bryan’s bio here.

Matthew McTiernan – Associate
Matt is a patent attorney in our Engineering & ICT team with a technical background in mechanical engineering. See Matt’s bio here.

Welcome to the second article of our Spotlight Series on one of the most exciting frontiers of scientific research and innovation, regenerative medicine.

In our first article, we answered the question “What is regenerative medicine?” and delved into the multi-disciplinary roles it encompasses, and explored some of the key technologies in the sector, including CAR-T cell therapies and bone marrow transplantation.

In this article, we take a look at the historical origins of regenerative medicine and how its therapies have come to transform human lives.

Where did it come from?

A key pillar of regenerative medicine, tissue regeneration, can be traced back to Greek mythology and the story of Prometheus, the Titan god of fire. Prometheus is said to have defied the gods by stealing fire and gifting it to humans who used it to progress scientific enquiry and advance civilisation. As punishment Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced the immortal Prometheus to eternal torment. Prometheus was bound to a rock, and during the day an eagle would peck at his liver – while at night, Prometheus’ liver would regenerate. The cycle repeated once dawn broke.

Fast forward to the present day, and scientists grow closer and closer to decoding exactly how whole organs can be regenerated – for far more altruistic purposes. The study of developmental biology has progressed to the point that scientists are able to harness the pluripotent abilities of embryonic stem cells in the laboratory. The process, called stem cell differentiation, utilises the right concoction of growth factors and proteins, applied at the appropriate concentrations, at key points of time intercepting the stem cell developmental trajectory to coerce stem cells to develop into a cell type of choice. Scientists are hopefully not far off applying an extension of this process to develop stem cells into organs and tissue in a process termed tissue engineering.

The hope is to one day harness methods of regeneration already seen in nature and apply this in human medicine. Scientists are presently studying axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum), a salamander found in Mexico, for their ability to regenerate amputated limbs. This ability derives from the muscle, bone and skin cells at the amputation site to reprogram the genes that are “switched off”, causing these differentiated cells to revert to pluripotent stem cells. It is these pluripotent stem cells that are then able to differentiate and form all the different cell types necessary to regenerate the limb.

A history of regenerative medicine therapies

The ability to regenerate and repair the human body may seem miraculous, but the third of Arthur C Clarke’s Three Laws springs to mind – “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. One of the first examples of regenerative medicine – blood transfusion – is relatively commonplace nowadays, but was considered a medical breakthrough when first undertaken in the 17th century. This was the first definitive example of taking functional cells from a donor human being and introducing them into a patient to restore normal function.

The next major advancement was a kidney transplantation that took place in 1954 between identical twins so there was no immune rejection of the donor organ.

Perhaps more notable however were the contributions of Nobel Prize winner Alexis Carrel, a French Surgeon, and Charles Lindbergh, the celebrated aviator, an unlikely pairing that set the scene for organ transplantation. Carrel, whose seminal work on cell culture and understanding how to keep organs alive outside the body, collaborated with Lindbergh in the 1930s to develop a perfusion pump that would be the basis of the development of the artificial heart.

A famous example of perhaps the first ‘modern day’ application of cell therapy was carried out by Dr Howard Green, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr Green had earlier discovered that small patches of laboratory-grown skin could be grafted onto burn victims, leading to regeneration of the human skin. Dr Green was an attending doctor at the Massachusetts General Hospital in 1984 when he was asked to help two young brothers, Jamie and Glen Selby, who had suffered third-degree burns over almost their entire bodies in an horrific accident. Patches of skin were taken from the brothers and cultured in the lab, before being grafted on the young boys. Dr Green’s actions proved decisive, and without his intervention it’s unlikely the boys would have survived the accident.

This illustration of the potential of cell therapies to salvage the most catastrophic of circumstances inspired a wave of next generation therapies.

In the next part of the series, we discuss some of these therapies, and recent developments and trends in regenerative medicine.

Griffith Hack has been recognised by Doyle’s Guide 2022 across multiple categories, with principals Kellie Stonier and Gavin Adkins receiving individual accolades.

Individual recognition
Brisbane-based principal Kellie Stonier has been named one of Queensland’s leading intellectual property lawyers, receiving recognition in the prestigious “Leading” category. Kellie was also recently listed for her intellectual property law expertise in the latest edition of Best Lawyers’.

Melbourne-based principal Gavin Adkins has been named as a leading contentious intellectual property lawyer in Victoria, receiving a “Recommended” ranking. This was the first time that Gavin has been honoured by Doyle’s.

Firm recognition
Further to the individual accolades, Griffith Hack has been ranked by Doyle’s as a leading contentious and non-contentious intellectual property law firm in both NSW and Victoria, and a leading intellectual property law firm in Queensland.

Griffith Hack principals Amanda Stark and Janelle Borham have been named as Patent Stars in the IP STARS 2022 rankings by Managing IP.

This result highlights Amanda and Janelle’s standing as leaders in patent work both within Australia and internationally.

Earlier in 2022, Griffith Hack was also named as a Tier 1 firm for Trade Mark Prosecution and a Tier 3 firm for Trade Mark Contentious by IP STARS, with Anne Makrigiorgos recognised as a Trade Mark Star.

Published by Managing IP, IP STARS recognises firms and senior practitioners who have been identified as leaders in their fields and is considered one the most comprehensive and widely respected guides in the IP profession.

About Amanda & Janelle

Amanda Stark

Amanda is one of the leading patent practitioners in the Australian biotechnology space.  She is also a key member of Griffith Hack’s leadership team, heading up the ChemLife practice group and leading the International Business Development and Foreign Associate Relationship program.

Amanda has a reputation for grasping complex legal and technical issues and developing creative solutions to achieve targeted results. Known in the industry for her tenacity and lateral thinking, clients transfer their work to Amanda when issues arise that most attorneys cannot resolve.

Janelle Borham

Janelle Borham is a principal and patent and trade marks attorney based in Melbourne. She is also the current president of the Institute of Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys of Australia.

Janelle provides strategic IP advice to large corporations locally and overseas, and assists clients drafting patent specifications. She has particular expertise in the area of food sciences, working with multinationals in an area that has changed significantly over the last 20 years. 

Griffith Hack is proud to announce that three members of our Law team have been named in the Best Lawyers Australia guide for 2023.

Derek Baigent (Sydney), Kellie Stonier (Brisbane) and Anne Makrigiorgos (Melbourne) have each been recognised the area of Intellectual Property Law. For Derek, this marks the eighth year running that he has received this honour. While for Kellie, this marks her fourth year running and Anne her second.

Best Lawyers is a peer review guide to the legal profession and awardees are nominated by their peers.

World Intellectual Property Day is being celebrated across the globe today, with this year’s theme shining a spotlight on IP and youth and how we can innovate for a better future.

Here at Griffith Hack, we use World IP Day 2022 to recognise the young inventors, technologists, engineers and entrepreneurs who are developing the innovative products and services that will help steer a course towards a better future.

We also use today to celebrate our cohort of talented young patent attorneys, trade marks attorneys and lawyers who work side-by-side with these innovators to help bring their ideas to the world. We thought we’d speak with some of them to find out why they enjoy working in IP, and what excites them about its future.

Thanks to Jessie Shu, John Scicluna, Radhika Moore and Dr Bryan Leaw for participating.

Griffith Hack is thrilled to be attending the INTA 2022 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C from 30 April – 4 May, with our team looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues in person.

Representing Griffith Hack at the event will be:

If you are attending INTA and would like to schedule a meeting in advance, please contact Nicola, Emma, Ray or Simon directly, or alternatively, contact Faye Oxley – Business Development Manager:

Anthony Selleck reviews today’s decision in Commissioner of Patents v Thaler [2022] FCAFC 62 which reverses an earlier ruling that artificial intelligence can be an “inventor” for the purposes of the Australian Patents Act 1990.

In July 2021, the Australian Federal Court delivered what can be described as a stunning decision, that an artificial intelligence can be an “inventor” for the purposes of the Australian Patents Act 1990. The decision seemingly opened the door to the Australian Patent Office granting patents to outputs wholly produced by artificial intelligence systems with no human intervention.

The Commissioner of Patents appealed the decision to the Full Court, and earlier today, the Court unanimously allowed the Commissioner’s appeal.

Prior to today’s decision, Australia was the only country in which a court decided in favour of the patent applicant, with courts in Germany, the United States and United Kingdom (along with Patent Offices in a number of jurisdictions) reaching the opposite conclusion.

Central to the Full Court’s decision was the observation that the law relating to the entitlement of a person to the grant of a patent is premised upon an invention that arises “from the mind of a natural person or persons”. In reaching this conclusion, the Full Court noted that it is those who contribute to, or supply, the inventive concept who are entitled to the grant of a patent, and that the patent grant is a reward for the inventor’s “human” ingenuity.

The Full Court also observed that it is the “inventor” (as opposed to the Applicant) who makes certain representations in the patent specification as to the nature of the invention. It is these representations that underlie the patent bargain between the inventor and the state, and are intertwined with concepts material to the validity of patent applications and patents. According to the Full Court, the Patents Act 1990 does not contemplate beings other than human being having the capacity to make representations, or indeed misrepresentations that may render a patent liable to be revoked.

In the absence of a successful appeal to the High Court of Australia, it can be assumed that Australian patent applications must name a human inventor, or are at risk of lapsing.

There are many policy issues that arise with respect to granting patent rights to the results and insights that artificial intelligence systems generate. We have no doubt that these will be hotly debated in the future, in the context of reforms to the patent system or the creation of new intellectual property systems specifically tailored to artificial intelligence.