Washington Post: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that human genes cannot be patented, a decision that could shape the future of medical and genetic research and have profound effects on pharmaceuticals and agriculture.That you can just go out and find something that already exists and patent it is crazy. How about I take out a patent on iron ore — and then whenever someone makes so much as a tiny steel cotter pin, I get a little something?
The ruling was a split decision for Myriad Genetics Inc., which holds patents on genes that have been linked to breast and ovarian cancer.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said that merely isolating those specific genes — called BRCA1 and BRCA2 — was not worthy of a patent.
“Myriad found the location of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but that discovery, by itself, does not render the BRCA genes … patent eligible,” Thomas wrote.
On the other hand, Thomas wrote, Myriad’s creation of a synthetic form of DNA — called cDNA — based on its discovery does deserve patent protection.
But the claim was actually worse than that and would’ve given the company a practical monopoly on work involving these genes, slowing medical research tremendously.
“Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said the ACLU, which represented the challenegers to Myriad’s claims . “Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing, and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued.”
[image via Caroline Davis2010]