Supreme Court rules on DNA patentability

High court says natural DNA cannot be patented, synthetic DNA can

In a case that has been closely watched for years, the Supreme Court put to rest an ongoing controversy over DNA patentability.

The nine justices concluded in their unanimous ruling earlier today that naturally occurring DNA—or genes from within the human body—is not patentable. However, the justices’ decision said that synthetic DNA is patentable.

The case centered on Myriad Genetics, which, according to NPR, "discovered and isolated two genes — BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 — that are highly associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad patented its discovery, giving it a 20-year monopoly over use of the genes for research, diagnostics and treatment. A group of researchers, medical groups and patients sued, challenging the patent as invalid."

The case wended its way through the courts for years before landing on the high court’s docket. In an earlier appeal, the Federal Circuit found both types of DNA to be patentable.

In today’s ruling, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the lower court was wrong in the ruling.

For more InsideCounsel stories and columns on this case, see:

IP: Supreme Court hears oral argument on whether isolated DNA is a product of nature

Supreme Court hears gene patentability arguments

IP: Supreme Court will decide if human genes are patentable

Supreme Court will rule on gene patentability

Contributing Author

Cathleen Flahardy

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