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Patents Your Rights Online

You Don't 'Own' Your Own Genes 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the brb-i-have-to-cancel-a-couple-ebay-auctions dept.
olePigeon (Wik) writes "Cornell University's New York based Weill Cornell Medical College issued a press release today regarding an unsettling trend in the U.S. patent system: Humans don't "own" their own genes, the cellular chemicals that define who they are and what diseases for which they might be at risk. Through more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules, companies have essentially claimed the entire human genome for profit, report Dr. Christopher E. Mason of Weill Cornell Medical College, and the study's co-author, Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and a member of the High Performance and Research Computing Group, who analyzed the patents on human DNA. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual 'genomic liberty.'"
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You Don't 'Own' Your Own Genes

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:36PM (#43284241)

    Careful, these guys are going to come after you for procreating next!

    Think of the children! No, really.

  • by mblase (200735) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:36PM (#43284253)

    ...but fortunately, I have complete legal ownership due to the grandfather clause.

  • by schneidafunk (795759) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:39PM (#43284281)
    "The U.S. Supreme Court will review genomic patent rights in an upcoming hearing on April 15. At issue is the right of a molecular diagnostic company to claim patents not only on two key breast and ovarian cancer genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — but also on any small sequence of code within BRCA1, including a striking patent for only 15 nucleotides. " ...

    "This means if the Supreme Court upholds the current scope of the patents, no physician or researcher can study the DNA of these genes from their patients, and no diagnostic test or drug can be developed based on any of these genes without infringing a patent," says Dr. Mason.

    * Personally I believe the supreme court will throw out these patents.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by the_humeister (922869)

      If they don't throw out the patents, does that mean people with the mutation who do develop cancer have standing to sue the company then since they have patents on those genes?

      • by djmurdoch (306849)

        No, the company will sue the cancer patients for illegally duplicating their invention.

        • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @05:07PM (#43285425)

          company will sue the cancer patients

          You might by trying for cynicism, but this is just all too similar to cases already won by Monsanto [dailytech.com]

        • Well, specifically, the tumors are duplicating the invention, which means cancer is illegal. If something is declared illegal, it is necessary to go to War On It (TM, US government), incarcerating those associated with said thing, therefore eliminating it. Ipso facto QED they just cured cancer by patenting it. God bless our patent system. *one.single.tear*

      • Short answer: no

        Long answer: If you spend a lot of money then you can probably SUE them. And you'll lose that money doing so and will possibly get fined on top of that, and maybe countersued? (IANAL) The only way you would get anywhere with that tactic would be if you were able to spend far more money on lawyers than myriad or whatever the greedy group of assholes calls themselves. Legal insanity only works on behalf of the wealthy and the corporations.
    • by dpilot (134227) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:54PM (#43284491) Homepage Journal

      Let me get this straight.... If this patent is upheld, it will become illegal to pass along BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes to offspring.

      We've found it - the cure to cancer!

    • As the article points out 15 nucleotides is too small to be subject to patentability. Hopefully at least this much is thrown out.

      I expect that at least some of this patent will be thrown out. But not all - the tests the Myriad invented using these genes are real inventions.

  • It's just a chemical. Like water.
    OTOH, it's naturally occurring, so they should be able to patented either.

    Patent chemical derivations? absolutely.

    • The fence being ridden is when short pieces of DNA are used as diagnostic tools for diseases. One example highlighted in the paper is a 15-nucleotide sequence that can be used in a PCR assay to determine the presence of a specific breast-cancer-related mutation. While the patent technically only covers this diagnostic use, the reality is that it's a natural piece of the human genome and absolutely could not stand up under scrutiny as non-obvious... In fact, if it wasn't so obvious, they'd have no one to sue
      • by geekoid (135745)

        really? so if I asked someone one 50 years ago what part of the DNA, if any, could be used to diagnose breast cancer probability, they would have known?

        no, it is not obvious.

        • The "non-obvious" requirement in the context of patents specifically refers to an expert skilled in the art at the time of the discovery, so your example is irrelevant. Once the mutation was identified, it was obvious that it could be used as a diagnostic tool in this way.

          To draw a computing analogy, this would be like patenting a single-use program that detects the signature of a single non-polymorphic virus, where the signature is a piece of that virus's code, and then taking out a separate patent for eac

  • Don't each of those genes have prior art? In what way have these companies created a new and innovative device?
    • So if I get my DNA sequenced and it matches their so-called patent, I can sue for damages. I'll just bide my time until it's worthwhile to do so.
  • Good (Score:5, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:47PM (#43284391)

    If this is the case, Merck can send a cease and desist letter to that woman who copied my genome without permission and is now seeking child support payments.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      You where raped? Or perhaps there was some sort of permission involved.

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Informative)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @04:00PM (#43284583) Homepage

      If this is the case, Merck can send a cease and desist letter to that woman who copied my genome without permission and is now seeking child support payments.

      Well, since it's actually a derivative work of both your genomes, this is classed as a collaborative effort.

      Unless you were engaged in a limited liability partnership, you can be sued for liability issues arising from the partnership.

      I'd suggest consulting a lawyer if you didn't have any contracts drawn up in advance ... you may have unwittingly entered into a partnership which doesn't shield you from liability, and it sounds like it's too late to withdraw without consequences. ;-)

      • by wierd_w (1375923)

        Nono, this is about license violation.

        See, he provided his "intellectual property" with the limited terms that it would not be used to produce any derivative works whatsoever, and was provided as is, non transferable, and only for the specific activity specified, under the binding verbally contractual agreement that no such unauthorized reproduction or derivative works would be made, and that if it occured out of negligence on her part to control her own reproductive equipment, the onus of any burden would

      • So, Apache or GPL license is finally a life or death argument!

      • If this is the case, Merck can send a cease and desist letter to that woman who copied my genome without permission and is now seeking child support payments.

        Well, since it's actually a derivative work of both your genomes, this is classed as a collaborative effort.

        Unless you were engaged in a limited liability partnership, you can be sued for liability issues arising from the partnership.

        I'd suggest consulting a lawyer if you didn't have any contracts drawn up in advance ... you may have unwittingly entered into a partnership which doesn't shield you from liability, and it sounds like it's too late to withdraw without consequences. ;-)

        Funny commentary?

        Or ominous vision of the future?

  • So are we going to see cease and desist orders from these companies because we are infringing on their patents when we take a shit?
  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:49PM (#43284423)
    How did all these patents get issued, when legally in the U.S., patents cannot be issued for products of nature?

    Somebody is massively and badly f*cking up, somewhere.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Because the patents cover isolated, amplified genes which are not products of nature.

      Every material object in the sidereal universe is a 'product of nature'. The question is whether or not it was modified by man when the issue of patentability comes up.

      • Arguably all human genes are modified by man, especially those in a human

        • That would be an argument that would give you an F in patent law 101.

          • That would be an argument that would give you an F in patent law 101.

            That's a painfully sad way to look at the situation...

            I suppose, now, there's no point in majoring in Biochemistry, unless you're planning on a minor in Patent Law...

            Fuck.

  • by AntEater (16627) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:50PM (#43284441) Homepage

    I claim prior art! Well, my parents could, at least.

  • Can I send a cheek-swab to the US Copyright office and copyright my own genes?

  • sue (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @03:56PM (#43284513)

    So if you get sick with cancer, just sue the company that is the owner of the gene. Tell the courts they own the patent and you never asked for there products to be put into you. Make clear you only want those mutated cancer cells removed that they own.. Free cancer treatment.

  • "Humans don't "own" their own genes"

    Can we repossess them from Soulskill and Cowboy Neal? :)

  • ...only outlaws will synthesize their own proteins.

    • Wasn't that the problem with jimhadar on st ds9 they had to have ketrisell white but the founders removed thier genes that produced it so they would be dependent one them for it

  • by rgriff59 (526951) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @04:06PM (#43284655) Homepage

    Find a company which "owns" a gene that controls some specific disease, like a cancer. Now, everyone with that disease files a lawsuit against the patent holder. They own it, they should be liable for the damages it is causing by being released into the general population. By claiming a patent, this implies invention, therefore we can infer liability!

    After a few multi-million dollar lawsuit awards, no one would want to "own" a gene. Problem solved.

  • How in the world this is even eligible for being patented escapes me. I know. This is the same rant that has been repeated over and over again here. Patents should be for inventions or things that people have created.

    If I do a whole bunch of research and learn things that other people haven't learned about the sun, can I patent the bloody thing? How is patenting genes any different?

    • It's because we aren't advocating the immediate disbarment of about 75% of the lawyers in North America. If I had my way, there would be a random lottery that would cull three quarters right now, and would maintain that ratio to the rest of the population for the rest of time.

  • Unless there is program to clone me and then take over my life, I really don't care who owns my "genes". I am sure there are people shaking with rage hearing about this, but get over it, its a non-issue for 99.9999% of the population. People just like to fight for something without caring about what its about other then "the injustice of it all".

    Lastly, God owns our genes, so there.

  • The act of conception produces a baby that is considered to be unlicensed derivative work of companies in the biotech industry. The parents must either pay between $200 - $150,000 dollars for each infringement. If the parents cannot pay the fine, the corporations can gain legal guardianship of the child and either use the child for their own medical research purposes, or sell the child to a sweatshop and place a lien on the child's earnings for their lifetime until the debt is repaid.

  • The extended middle finger.

  • When I saw the summary title I read it as, "You don't own your own games." I thought, "Great, THIS story again," before I noticed I read it wrong. Completely off topic, but I thought it was funny.

  • If I don't own my own genes, then why would any other alleged owner be legally prohibited from taking them from me?
  • My cells divide all the time, I am therefore a walking sack of IP violations. Nice.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @07:37PM (#43286791) Homepage Journal
    Manage to patent an irrational number and then sue everyone because math shows that everyone have everything there if you dig enough. Then take down the patent system as even them are covered by your patent. And then we can live happily ever after.
  • Bad title is bad (Score:4, Informative)

    by hacksoncode (239847) on Tuesday March 26, 2013 @08:00PM (#43286949)
    I fully understand why people have a visceral reaction to the idea of patents on human genes, but the fact is that these are not patents on human genes, they are patents on artificially extracted and purified forms of certain gene sequences that do not occur in isolation in nature.

    People do own their own genes, as they occur in their bodies.

    From the Federal Register: [gpo.gov]

    A patent on a gene covers the isolated and purified gene but does not cover the gene as it occurs in nature. Thus, the concern that a person whose body ``includes'' a patented gene could infringe the patent is misfounded. The body does not contain the patented, isolated and purified gene because genes in the body are not in the patented, isolated and purified form. When the patent issued for purified adrenaline about one hundred years ago, people did not infringe the patent merely because their bodies naturally included unpurified adrenaline.

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