Score one for nature. A US district court judge on Monday declared that pharma companies can’t patent individual genes because they are they are not, in fact, creating them.
Last spring, Myriad Genetics was taken to task by the ACLU for monopolizing a patent it had discovered for breast cancer. The civil rights group felt that because the gene already existed prior to Myriad’s discovery, the company should not be allowed to patent it. Myriad argued that they have rights to the technology used to discover the gene, and therefore should have the rights to the gene itself.
Judge Robert Sweet felt otherwise, siding with the ACLU and declaring that “gene patents are “directed to a law of nature and were therefore improperly granted.”
“While we are disappointed that Judge Sweet did not follow prior judicial precedent or Congress’s intent that the Patent Act be broadly construed and applied, we are very confident that the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will reverse this decision and uphold the patent claims being challenged in this litigation,” stated Peter Meldrum, president and CEO of Myriad Genetics, in a press release. “More importantly, we do not believe that the final outcome of this litigation will have a material impact on Myriad’s operations, due to the patent protection afforded Myriad by its remaining patents.”
Myriad stated in a release that the judge ruled that 15 claims involving seven patents were “invalid or unenforceable.” That said, the firm still has control over 164 claims that have not been challenged. Additionally, Myriad holds 16 patents protecting BRACAnalysis—the tool used to discover how likely a woman is to get ovarian or breast cancer.