US Supreme Court Ruling: naturally occuring DNA cannot be patented, but synthesized DNA can

The full ruling can be found here.

While I have not had a chance to study the ruling in detail yet, I have no illusions that my non-legally-trained mind would be able to grasp all of the nuances of the ruling, so, please, do read it for yourself.

In the meantime, this is what the news folks are saying about it:

The Sydney Morning Herald:

‘The US Supreme Court has issued a potentially far-reaching ruling, stating that DNA in the human genome is a “product of nature” that cannot be patented.

The nine-member court’s unanimous finding on Thursday overturns exclusive rights to use genes that have been issued in recent decades by the US Patent and Trademark Office, but does allow companies to patent their developments of synthetic, so-called composite DNA.

“A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent-eligible merely because it has been isolated,” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas, author of the decision. 

However, he went on to write that composite DNA “is patent-eligible because it is not naturally occurring”.

The decision strikes down patents issued to Myriad Genetics, which had isolated a rare gene associated with very high rates of breast and ovarian cancer in women who carry the mutation. The company had claimed the exclusive right to offer tests for the gene, based on its patent.’

Of course, this patenting of the naturally-occurring cancer genes has been the highest obstacle in cancer research and even cancer treatment, as per many medical professionals.  If you had a naturally occurring breast cancer,  you yourself could not use your own tissue to try to get better, because someone else held a patent on the DNA that had naturally occurred inside of you!
Frankly, that sounds to me like slavery by another name – and I am glad that the US Supreme Court has struck it down! It corrects some (no, not all, but you have to start somewhere) of the incredible patents irresponsibly (and, hopefully ignorantly) granted by the US Patent Office.
More sources…here is what BBC is saying:

‘The opinion said DNA came from nature and was not eligible for patenting.The US biotechnology industry had warned any blanket ban on such patents would jeopardise huge investment in gene research and therapies.

“We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in Thursday’s opinion.

But his ruling said that synthetic molecules known as complementary DNA can be patented “because it is not naturally occurring”.’

And from The Blaze:

‘For more than 30 years, the  U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes. But Thursday the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a patent could not be placed on naturally occurring human genes, because researchers didn’t “create” them.

Those who are praising the decision believe it will benefit both the progress of research and protect the human body  ”from the assertion of private property rights.”’

Considering that over quarter of human DNA had been patented, this is an important ruling indeed!

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