For those of you who follow our blog, you’ll know that a few months back we wrote about a Supreme Court case on the table regarding human gene patenting (see previous blog post). The question at hand was can something that occurs naturally (such as human genetics) be patented? Needless to say, this was a big topic in the patent and IP realm, and we followed the case closely.
Well, the decision is in, and on June 13, 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented. In the most basic sense, patients and researchers won while the biotech conglomerates and research firms lost. The decision hold some serious weight, so lets dive in a little deeper to highlight the key facts…
- The Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented
- While this decision will prevent any future patents, Myriad Genetics, the defendant in the case, wasn’t completely shut out by the court. The justices will allow Myriad to patent certain types of synthesized DNA that goes beyond extracting genes from the body.
- The decision delivered favored the plaintiff citing that “Myriad did not create anything” and therefore cannot take claim to any “invention” rights.
So what does all of this mean? Well essentially, the background of the case revolved around patents on the proteins known as BRCA 1 and 2 that are highly indicative predictors of breast cancer. Myriad had patents on these two genes which prevented researchers and the likes from conducting any further studies. Patients themselves also cried foul claiming that these patents prevented them from seeking the treatment they needed.
Now that the decision has been delivered, the market for research and development is open. Scientists and laboratories will be able to conduct genetic diagnostic testing using BRCA 1 and 2 as well as other predictive measures. This also means more accessibility for patients at significantly lower costs.
While the decision proved to be a major blow to Myriad, they highlighted their continued plan to work on patents on cDNA, which does not occur naturally, and therefore can be patented. Still however, thousands of gene related patents (approximately 40,000+) have now been invalidated. While all of these do not belong to Myriad, it is most certain that they can be expected to feel the hit.
At the end of the day, this decision is complicated and encompasses several new rules and regulations. Most important though is the fact that breast cancer patients and researchers in this field will now have more access to research, studies, and the genetics surrounding this unfortunate strain of cancer. So, in our opinion, this decision is most certainly a win for the people.
Be sure to keep up with our blog for more news regarding this case and plenty of other interesting news in the patent and IP realm!