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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Isolated Genes Can Be Patented

Posted Dec 3, 2012 10:05 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether isolated genes can be patented.

The court granted cert in a case challenging patents on genes associated with increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, report the New York Times, Bloomberg News and SCOTUSblog.

At issue is whether isolated genes are “human-made inventions” that can be patented, or “products of nature” that may not be patented, the Times explains.

Myriad Genetics has argued its patents are valid because the isolated molecules at issue were created by humans, do not occur in nature and “have new and significant utilities not found in nature.” The challengers, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, claim the patents give the company a monopoly on naturally occurring genes and stifle innovation.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had ruled for Myriad Genetics last year. The appeals court reaffirmed the ruling after the U.S. Supreme Court asked it to reconsider based on on Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories Inc., a March decision limiting patents that are based on the laws of nature, SCOTUSblog says.

The case is Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics.

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