The Supreme Court has ruled as it should. What makes this decision even more salient is that the decision was unanimous. Human genes cannot be patented. The background to the case is chilling.
On May 12, 2009, the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit against Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation, who hold patents on the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, charging that patenting human genes violates the First Amendment, as well as patent law, because genes are “products of nature” and, therefore, cannot be patented.
On March 29, 2010 the patents were invalidated. The decision stated:
The resolution of these motions is based upon long recognized principles of molecular biology and genetics: DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information, distinct in its essential characteristics from any other chemical found in nature. It is concluded that DNA’s existence in an “isolated” form alters neither this fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes. Therefore, the patents at issue directed to “isolated DNA” containing sequences found in nature are unsustainable as a matter of law and are deemed unpatentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.
The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reinstated Myriad Genetic’s patent in 2011 and henceforth this Supreme Court resolution.
Today, June 13, 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that human genes cannot be patented. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the unanimous opinion. He stated:
… that the DNA it isolated from the body for its proprietary breast and ovarian cancer tests were patentable – had to be dismissed because it violates patent rules. The court has said that laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas are not patentable.
“We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” Thomas said. [Source]
The court did give Myriad a partial victory in that they said synthetically created DNA (cDNA) could be patented because it is not naturally occurring. Thomas also said had Myriad created an innovative method of manipulating genes while searching for the genes BRC1 and BRC2, then a ‘method patent’ would be applicable.
Sandra Park, Lawyer for the Civil Liberties Union Women’s Rights Project said:
“Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation. Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them. 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.”
Peter D. Meldrum, Myriad’s president and CEO said:
“We believe the court appropriately upheld our claims on cDNA and underscored the patent eligibility of our method claims, ensuring strong intellectual property protection for our BRACAnalysis test moving forward. .. More than 250,000 patients rely upon our BRACAnalysis test annually, and we remain focused on saving and improving peoples’ lives and lowering overall healthcare costs.”
20% of human genes are currently under patent. It is likely all those patents are null and void.
A few week ago I wrote the article “Gene Case Proves Capitalism Enslaves & Kills If Used As An Ideology Instead Of A Tool”. In this article I said:
Until capitalism is viewed as only a tool to efficiently serve humanity when applicable, the American society will ultimately fail. Many Americans are indoctrinated into believing that capitalism is the America religion not far removed from “Christianity”. Anyone professing any ills about it is admonished. ….
Many attempt to define every aspect of exchange in our society as a product in order to capitalize it; that is an immoral flaw. Compared to cancer, there are few people who suffer from lupus. As such there is no incentive for much research on lupus. The very limited drugs that have been developed specifically for this disease then cost so much that many will simply have to choose to die.
America’s middle class is being decimated from all sides, healthcare, taxes, property rights, corporate rights, & patents policies. It is time that the masses pay attention not only to this case but many other cases that slowly strip power from the masses.
The Myriad case should be enough of a warning to those who scream against “socialized” medicine. They should use it as a warning to socialize the portions of our healthcare system that would best work without a profit motive and a portion where a profit a motive is justified. Much is resting on the outcome of this case.
This case was that important. Many have been vociferous about government encroachment of our civil liberties. While they continue to demean government, we the people, they forget that most of the ills of big government are caused by the corporatocracy they readily give umbrage to. The government today serves the powerful and in so doing write laws to ensure the powerful remains powerful.
A victory in this case would ensure that corporations would gain control on the very biology that makes us human. It is bad enough they can patent genetically modified seeds giving them ownership of much of the food supply as more and more fields are contaminated with’ ‘synthetic foods’.
All in all, this was one for the Middle Class. After losing for so long, winning a big one, especially this one may just signal hope.