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ACLU v. The Gene Patents… and the winner is…

· March 31, 2010

Do NOT Patent My Genes. Photo: singularityhub.com/Since the publication of our October 26, 2009 article "ACLU v. The Gene Patents," we’ve been watching the case in which the ACLU and the Public Patents Office, among many others, took legal action against Myriad Genetics for patenting certain genes. And now we have a winner! As reported on Singularity Hub and elsewhere, "a US District Court Judge in New York (Robert Sweet) has ruled that patents on human genes held by Myriad Genetics are invalid."

This could be a big day for genetic research, particularly diy bio. But will genes, in general, be seen as a public resource? The results are still in question.

In our 2009 piece, h+ reporter Tyson Anderson wrote:

"What would an ACLU victory mean? Advocates believe that researchers will be free to develop and market other tests, bringing competition and driving down costs. It would also mean researchers could spend more money on research, since they would no longer have to pay Myriad. And life-saving treatment may be developed more quickly for thousands of women. Beyond that, it could close the door on more gene patents, if not invalidating all previous patents and opening up legal debate about the limits of patents and intellectual property.

"Companies involved in this type of patenting take a different view. They say that a favorable verdict could do more harm than good. Large companies claim that they need gene patents to provide incentive to perform research and make such exploration possible. They also point to several studies conducted on intellectual property that state that so called ‘patent thickets’ do not hinder competition or impede research."

We’ll be keeping an eye on this as the results play out.

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2 Responses

  1. Finally, a sane decision. Patents do impede research and end up increasing costs. Only company PR people or pharma-paid lobbyists argue otherwise.

    As for the companies themselves, they’re already changing their tune now that they’re using whole-genome approaches for their R&D, which means they find themselves constantly stepping on everyone else’s patents.

  2. Ben NCM says:

    Myriad still has a load more patents already unchallenged though doesn’t it, so this is a minor victory in the grand scheme of things. The human genome is just another territory ripe for commodity. I’m not surprised that one of the most fundamental domains on Earth is already having flags stuck in it and being claimed by vast corporations.

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