NCMA designation opens door to patents

09-11-2015

The National Center for Marine Algae and Microbiota (NCMA) is now designated as an international depository authority (IDA) by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), making it eligible to accept and hold microorganisms for patent applications worldwide. Such designations were developed under the Budapest Treaty in 1977, which established requirements for how microorganisms must be maintained during the patent process for natural-based products/inventions around the globe.

Patents require that an invention be disclosed. For non-living patentable items, disclosure is typically provided through a written description and attending documentation. But when an invention involves a microorganism or the use of a microorganism in a product, written disclosure is not possible. The Budapest Treaty established that the deposit of a microorganism(s) in a specialized institution such as the NCMA would take the place of a written description and be considered as "proof" of the invention.

The NCMA is one of three US-based IDA's of which there are 44 such facilities worldwide. It was approved to accept holdings of any algae, eukaryotic protists, bacteria, archaea, or viruses from any aquatic environment.

"We currently hold multiple private collections for companies conducting research and development for algae-derived products," explains Mike Lomas, director of the NCMA at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. "In addition to directly depositing an organism for the patent process, private collection strains can easily be converted to patent deposits to meet the patent application requirements."

WIPO coordinates the patenting process of microorganisms globally so member nations that have signed the Treaty only have to deposit a microorganism in one IDA to apply for patents in many nations. This global cooperation saves applicants time, money, and increases the security of their inventions.

Adds Lomas, "This WIPO designation continues NCMA's growth trajectory as a one-stop shop for assisting in the commercialization of algal-based products, both in-house and for clients worldwide." Once patents are secure and algal products approach commercialization, we offer multiple options for licensing agreements, and consultative services that help ensure products successfully launch."

The Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Microorganisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure was passed in 1977. The main feature of the Treaty is that a contracting State which allows or requires the deposit of microorganisms for the purposes of patent procedure must recognize, for such purposes, the deposit of a microorganism with any "international depositary authority", irrespective of whether such authority is on or outside the territory of the said State.

The NCMA is one of the world's largest and most diverse collections of marine phytoplankton. Established in 1981 and formally recognized as a National Resource Center in 1992, NCMA maintains in its public collection about 2,800 strains of phytoplankton, macroalgae, and bacteria from around the world for scientific and industrial research. It serves clients in more than 60 nations. Based in East Boothbay Maine, the NCMA is a core facility within Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences.