Supreme Court Rules that Genes Cannot Be Patented
This is an exciting day for molecular biologists—with this discipline featured front and center in the recent Supreme Court ruling on gene patenting. This past April, EpiBeat posted a summary that described the Supreme Court case to determine whether genes can be patented. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a unanimous decision that genes and the information they encode are not patentable subject matter under Title 35, Section 101 of the Unites States Code (35 U.S.C. § 101). However, some DNA sequences, such as cDNAs, are still likely patentable since they are not “products of nature” and are therefore patent eligible under §101. A PDF of the full Supreme Court decision can be accessed below. Patents held by Myriad Genetics for the sequences of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are no longer valid because the naturally occurring DNA sequences patented are basically indistinguishable from a product of nature. While naturally occurring DNA sequences can no longer be patented, the Supreme Court ruling leaves open the possibility that human DNA sequences that have been manipulated using standard laboratory techniques such that they do not appear in the body, as well as methods and applications involving genes and gene products, are still patent eligible. This ruling will be important to the healthcare and biotechnology industries, but the direct impact may be less than expected given the publication and public availability of the human genome sequence and the sequencing of genomes of other species. For example, Myriad Genetics stock went up after the decision. What do you think? Did the Supreme Court get it right? Please comment to share your opinions.
Click here to download the PDF of the full Supreme Court decision.