Thursday, June 13, 2013

Supreme Court rules human genes unpatentable

Did you know that for years, biotech companies have been able to patent human genes? It has been estimated that more than a third of human genes were patented. What is significant about these patents is that they include claims on substances that are naturally occurring: genes in you and me.

The Supreme Court of the United States has changed all that. They have just ruled that naturally occurring genes cannot be patented. They did rule that synthetic genes can be patented.

The case arises from a dispute over who could perform diagnostic tests on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, that when mutated, indicate a higher propensity for breast cancer. Myriad Genetics had been using their patent rights to exclude all others from developing tests for this mutation. This court ruling allows for greater competition in the gene testing market, lowering costs and making such tests more accessible for more people.

It was a long time coming, but it was worth the wait. Finally, the Supreme Court is starting to remind the Federal Circuit of Appeals and the US Patent office, that you can't patent nature.

I'm glad to see that there is a sea change afoot in patent law that favors the freedom to innovate.
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