Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nobody Should Patent Genes

In March, federal judge Robert Sweet ruled that the patents held by the University of Utah on two gene variants involved in breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, were not valid. I applauded, because I have always thought it was crazy that we allowed people to claim patents on genes that have existed in nature for thousands of years.

The University of Utah appealed. Now the Justice Department has filed a friend-of-court brief in the case arguing "that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature." I think this is great, and I think it makes it almost certain that Judge Sweet's ruling will be upheld. I suppose that back in the day the Patent Office was awed by the cutting edge technology involved in identifying a single gene, but their decision to allow patents was still a mistake. Now that automated processes identify dozens of new genes every day, we can see how bad a mistake it was and set about undoing it.

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