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The Courts Biotech Medicine Patents

Supreme Court: No Patents For Natural DNA Sequences 214

ColdWetDog writes "The ongoing story of Myriad Genetics versus the rest of the world has come to an end. In a 9-0 decision, the US Supreme Court has decided that human genes cannot be patented. From a brief Bloomberg article: 'Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said isolated DNA is a "product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated." At the same time, Thomas said synthetic molecules known as complementary DNA, or cDNA, can be patented because they require a significant amount of human manipulation to create.' Seems perfectly sane. Raw genes, the ones you find in nature are, wait for it — natural. Other bits of manipulated DNA / RNA / protein which take skill and time to create are potentially patentable. Oddly, Myriad Genetics stock actually rose on that information." Adds reader the eric conspiracy: "The result for Myriad is that they still have protection for their test, however the decision also allows researchers to work with the DNA sequences that are predecessors to the cDNA used in the test." Here's an AP report on the ruling, as carried by the Washington Post.
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Supreme Court: No Patents For Natural DNA Sequences

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  • Re:Why is it odd? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bonehead ( 6382 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:36PM (#43997413)

    The result wasn't that bad, but the real question is "Why the fuck was this ever even an issue in the first place"?

    Patents should be for creations, not discoveries.

    The ONLY people who should be entitled to a patent on my genome is my parents, and even that is questionable.

    Or, I could see a patent on genes being issued to either "God" or "The Universe", depending upon religous beliefs (or lack thereof).

    But this case should have never even been allowed to waste the court's time.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:37PM (#43997427) Journal

    This isn't good enough. Creating cDNA is not a creative act. Extract RNA, apply a reverse transcriptase. Now you have cDNA. The sequence of the cDNA(and the protein product it codes for) is 100% determined by the sequence of the RNA, which is a natural product.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:43PM (#43997549)

    Then presumably they'd be overturned by prior art.

  • Re:Why is it odd? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:44PM (#43997559) Homepage Journal
    It's disastrous. cDNA is just a direct copy of the most important part of what's in the genome—the actual transcript that gets used to make the final protein. This isn't a victory at all.
  • by tpjunkie ( 911544 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @12:56PM (#43997699) Journal
    Assuming that you're targeting processed mRNA. I feel the same way as you however. I believe that producing cDNA of a naturally occurring protein (whether wild type or novel mutation) is not "creation" per se, so much as translation (well, reverse translation followed by reverse transcription if you want to be anal) of an existing, natural item. Are translations patentable? Perhaps copyright is more appropriate, although the existing copyright laws might actually be worse than patent law.
  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @01:06PM (#43997803)

    Perhaps a form of copyright may be more appropriate there than patent.

    Oh hell no! Since copyright is DeFacto forever thanks to the MickyMouse Copyright Extension Act it would be MUCH worse if they could be granted a copyright on genes.

  • Re:Why is it odd? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @01:46PM (#43998173) Journal

    It was an issue because Congress was dragging ass on it. Even if you think such discovery should be protected, I still wouldn't hold my breath. They are inherently cowardly and lose fewer votes to inaction rather than risky action. Whenever a court decides something they should have addressed, or a regulatory agency does, everyone gets to throw up their hands and say, "I didn't do it!"

  • Re:Why is it odd? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday June 13, 2013 @03:07PM (#43999249)

    That empowers Congress to create laws defining these things. Whether Congress can grant patents to discoveries is separate. Current law as defined by Congress, does not.

    That's not exactly true.

    Discoveries can be and are patented all the time. And its perfectly legal according to the constitution and current law.
    You may not thinks so, but that is just a testament to how few novel discoveries are actually made in the modern world, and how few of them can actually be incorporated into new and novel inventions. The most common discoveries patented today deal with process patents, ways of doing or making something.

    The issue in the present case, is that Myriad tried to not only patent their process and the resultant treatment, but to claim ownership of something that is in every persons's body. You can patent false teeth, or the method of making them. You can't patent MY teeth. Myriad simply over-reached.

"You must have an IQ of at least half a million." -- Popeye