Supreme Court invalidates gene patents
Decision is landmark victory for patients, researchers, public
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a unanimous landmark decision today, the Supreme Court ruled that naturally occurring genes and DNA sequences are facts of nature and therefore not patentable. The Court also ruled that synthetic molecules known as complementary DNA, or cDNA may be patentable. The case involved two genes that correlate with increased risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, which were previously owned by Myraid Genetics through its patents.
Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, responded:
“This is a huge victory for patients, researchers and the public at large over the biotechnology industry which was trying to make profit off of the most basic facts of nature — our genetic code — and harming public health in the process.
“The US Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents to over 20 percent of the human genome, and as of today those patents are invalid. The Supreme Court has spoken loud and clear saying that genes are facts of nature and unpatentable, opening up our genome to researchers across the country to promote public health and free scientific inquiry. This decision also supports the basic legal tenant that one cannot patent and own facts of nature, which belong in the commons for all to benefit.”
Friends of the Earth, represented by the Center for Food Safety, submitted an amici brief to the Supreme Court arguing why naturally occurring genes, DNA and cDNA must not be patentable.