Federal court rules human genes can be patented

The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in a 2 to 1 decision Friday that human genes can be patented because the DNA extracted from cells is not a product of nature.

The court held (PDF) that Myriad Genetics can patent two human genes used to predict the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in women, overturning a previous decision by a federal district court in March 2010. But the court ruled that the method used to determine a patient’s risk of cancer was not patentable.

The lawsuit, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, et al., was filed in May 2009 on behalf of researchers, women patients, cancer survivors and scientific associations against the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, as well as Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation, which hold the patents on the genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.

The lawsuit was filed by the Public Patent Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union, who claimed patents on human genes violate the First Amendment and patent law because genes are “products of nature.”

The court disagreed.

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