A federal appeals court ruled on 29 July 2011 that genes are patentable. The 2-1 decision overturns a lower court ruling that genes cannot be patented because they are “products of nature.”
Although the latest decision broadly supports the ability of biotech companies to patent DNA sequences, the court rejected claims by Myriad Genetics, a defendant in the case, on patents they hold for processes to identify individuals that carry a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The plaintiffs in the case claimed that patients should not have to pay more than $3,000 for a test to detect mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes since the test relies upon naturally occurring products (i.e. DNA sequences). The appeals court rejected Myriad Genetics’ patent claims as being too abstract, as they do not describe a specific method of comparing patient genes against normal DNA sequences.
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