The following is excerpted from a November 11, 2009 post at the Bulletproof Blog drawn from a recent interview with Chris Hansen, staff attorney with the ACLU First Amendment Working Group. In the interview, Mr. Hansen discusses the impact of the recent U.S. District Court ruling that a lawsuit challenging patents on human genes can move forward, as well as what this means for the biotech industry. The suit is centered around the idea that patents on human genes violate the First Amendment and patent law because genes are “products of nature.”:
...the ACLU First Amendment Working Group,...scored a major victory on November 2 when the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that its lawsuit challenging patents on human genes can go forward.
Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, et al., originally filed on May 12, charges that two patents on genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer are illegal. The patents, owned by the University of Utah Research Center, are licensed to Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics. Along with claims that the patents restrict scientific research and patient access to medical care, the suit contends that patents on human genes violate First Amendment and patent law because genes are "products of nature."
The American Civil Liberties Union was joined in the suit by the Public Patent Foundation, a not-for-profit affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.
What will be the impact of this case?
Chris Hansen: That depends on whether we win it or lose it. The next step is to try it in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. After that I would expect appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, which might well agree to hear a case of this magnitude.
The issue of whether human genes can be patented has been around a long time and it seemed the Patent Office had concluded the debate was resolved in favor of patent-holders. At the very least, Judge [Robert] Sweet’s decision not to dismiss should disabuse them of that notion.
If we succeed, the potential impact can best be measured by the fact that 20% of the genes in the human body are now patented. Among them are genes associated with Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy, colon cancer, asthma, and many other illnesses
Read the full post here.