Federal Court Approves Patenting of Human Genes

Wednesday, August 03, 2011
(graphic: ACLU)
Opponents of patenting human genes lost a key battle in federal court this week, as a panel of judges overturned a lower court ruling that said the government could not exclusively restrict scientific work on DNA.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in a 2-to-1 decision that human genes can be patented because the DNA extracted from cells is not a product of nature.
In making its decision the appellate court sided with defendant Myriad Genetics, which has patented two human genes used to predict the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women.
Last year, opponents of gene patenting—the ACLU, researchers, women patients, cancer survivors and scientific associations—won a decision before a district court judge who agreed with the plaintiffs that companies like Myriad cannot legally own exclusive rights to human DNA because genes are “products of nature.”
The appellate ruling may not be the last one on the matter. The ACLU is considering filing either an appeal for the full court to rehear the case or for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide who’s right.
-David Wallechinsky
Patenting Human Genes (by Glenn Hess, Chemical & Engineering News)
Association for Molecular Pathology v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit) (pdf)
Obama Justice Dept. Turns against Gene Patents (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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