DNA can no longer be patented, says US Supreme Court

By on June 14, 2013, 9:30 AM
patent, supreme court, dna, patent law, myriad, american supreme court

When it comes to ethical debates, the decision to patent human DNA is one of the most controversial. It might seem ridiculous, but for the past three decades the American government has been awarding patents to biotechnology companies, providing them with exclusive rights to naturally-occurring genes. As of Thursday, the Supreme Court put an end to this practice.

According to CBC, the judgement was unanimous, and the reasoning behind the reversal was rather straight-forward. The court explained that both abstract ideas and natural phenomena cannot be patented, and that in regard to the second requirement, the human genome is protected.

So why did it take so long to make the amendment? Not surprisingly, it would appear that nothing in law is ever simple, especially when it defies logical thinking.

One such example is Myriad Genetics Inc., a biotechnology company that has isolated and patented two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer. Using these patents, the corporation has developed a way to test their patients for mutations in the aforementioned genes. If correctly identified, these women are three to seven times more likely to recieve the afflictions. Myriad’s patents have prevented other researchers from working with the faulty gene, making it extremely difficult for competitors to develop their own tests.

Unlike past verdicts, the court now believes that just isolating the gene is not enough to warrant ownership. Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the court’s decision, added, “We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated.”

It’s important to note that the judgement will have no effect on synthetic DNA - these products are not considered 'natural phenomena' and are, therefore, completely legal to patent.




User Comments: 13

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2 people like this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

So much for thinking I could patent my dog's DNA. The only dog I know that jumps a fence to crap in the neighbors yard and then returns home. The patent could have made me a fortune!

Seriously! Don't they have better things to do than play with (aka: f__kup) DNA?

Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

Well in this case they can identify people with DNA sequences that puts them at risk for certain diseases which allows for preventative treatment. So, playing with DNA is okay imo in cases like that. Can't imagine the horrors that take place when this kind of stuff gets in the wrong hands...

1 person liked this | MilwaukeeMike said:

Seriously! Don't they have better things to do than play with (aka: f__kup) DNA?

Haha, probably not. But there's a lot to learn from DNA. The more we can predict from our DNA the more we can do to prevent things like cancer. Look at what Angelia Jolie just did.

Myriad?s patents have prevented other researchers from working with the faulty gene, making it extremely difficult for competitors to develop their own tests.

This is kinda scary when you think about it. Its good news they fixed this crap. Competition in the marketplace is good for things like electronics and cars, but in healthcare, we'd all benefit more from sharing with each other. Innovation comes from taking previous breakthroughs and going a step further. Not that I expect drug companies to share research with each other... but it'd be nice.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

DNA can no longer be Patented, Duh! Who were the ****** who thought it could be in the first place? Maybe, I should have patented mine and charge all my children for the grand children they had or will have without my consent. Also, those who I've donated blood to need to pay up.

1 person liked this | wiyosaya said:

The last sentence in the article, "It?s important to note that the judgement will have no effect on synthetic DNA - these products are not considered 'natural phenomena' and are therefore not protected under patent law," should read "It?s important to note that the judgement will have no effect on synthetic DNA - these products are not considered 'natural phenomena' and are, therefore, protected under patent law."

Which means that Monsanto can go on suing farmers for growing crops that are a result of their GM crops pollinating natural growing crops in neighboring fields, as well as requiring that farmers buy seed from them every year even thought the crops the farmers grew from Monsanto's seed produce viable seed.

One other thing comes out of this, and perhaps is a more important aspect of the ruling than the DNA aspect, is that an abstract idea cannot be patented - I have seen patents on abstract ideas; therefore, all such patents are now junk as a result of this decision. I have to wonder how many patents have just been rendered junk due to this portion of this ruling. I think that this portion of the ruling is good in that this may stem the tide of overly broad patents.

It will be interesting to see the effect this has.

spencer spencer said:

So much for thinking I could patent my dog's DNA. The only dog I know that jumps a fence to crap in the neighbors yard and then returns home. The patent could have made me a fortune!

Seriously! Don't they have better things to do than play with (aka: f__kup) DNA?

Sweet yeah **** the globalists

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Sweet yeah **** the globalists

Globalism has nothing to do with an organization playing God in a lab, with the sole intent of creating patents. Least you could do is label it correctly as an act of selfish prosperity.

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This is all about money. If your business makes a drug you're going to want to isolate all other parts of the industry from encroaching on your research.

Pharmaceutical companies should be in an uproar about now. This patent wall they they throw up safeguards their research. Hopefully good research continues to happen despite this.

Guest said:

If DNA can be patented, what will be happen to your sons and grandsons (and all of your descendants) if they inherited patented DNA?

3 people like this | Wagan8r Wagan8r said:

If DNA can be patented, what will be happen to your sons and grandsons (and all of your descendants) if they inherited patented DNA?

They'd be grandfathered in. *ba dum tsh*

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

Why would they try patent human DNA? Where are they getting their advice from... Apple?

havok585 havok585 said:

Why would they try patent human DNA? Where are they getting this advice from... Apple?

Bwhahahha, cant stop laughing!!

spencer spencer said:

Globalism has nothing to do with an organization playing God in a lab, with the sole intent of creating patents. Least you could do is label it correctly as an act of selfish prosperity.

globalists fund everything evil for instance"monsanto"

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