On Monday April 15, 2013, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments concerning the patentability of human genes. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation filed the lawsuit in 2009 to challenge seven patents held by Myriad Genetics, Inc. The parties against the patents argue that human DNA is not eligible for patents as a “product of nature.” However, Myriad Genetics, Inc. argues that the genes have been isolated, making them patentable as “products of human ingenuity.” Although a federal district court judge held that the patents were invalid, the decision was overruled on appeal. The case is Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc. Read more about the case here and here.
To date, at least 4,000 human genes have been patented by various entities including universities and corporations. Gene patents grant the patent holder exclusive rights to the patented gene. Consequently, opponents of gene patents claim that patents on human DNA are an impediment to research. However, those in favor of gene patents, including Myriad Genetics, Inc., claim that gene patents are a positive development that rewards research.
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