US Supreme Court Rules that Human DNA Cannot be Patented

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Death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

The staff at Franks & Co were saddened to learn of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Our thoughts are with His Majesty King Charles III and the rest of the Royal Family.

The United Kingdom is now officially in a period of mourning until after the Queen’s state funeral which is to be held on Monday 19 September. Normal day-to-day business will continue throughout this period.

The UK government has declared the day of the funeral to be a national Bank Holiday, so the United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office will be closed on Monday 19 September.

The United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office’s official guidance on bank holidays is given below:

The office is deemed to be closed on weekends, Good Friday, Christmas Day and all England and Wales bank holidays for all types of business, except for the filing of new applications not claiming priority. If documents are filed for these types of business at times when the office is deemed to be closed, they will receive an official filing date of the next working day.

Any official time period which expires on a weekend or any other day on which the office is closed is extended to the next working day.

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The US Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that natural human genes cannot be patented, but artificially copied DNA can be claimed as intellectual property.

The Court ruled that human DNA was a "product of nature", a basic tool of scientific and technological work.  But it also said that synthetic genetic material could be patented, in a mixed ruling for the biotechnology industry.

The court ruling invalidated patents held by Utah-based firm, Myriad Genetics Inc., on two genes linked to a higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The patents held by Myriad controlled access to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast and ovarian cancer-linked genes, recently publicized by actress Angelina Jolie, who revealed she had a double mastectomy after testing positive for BRCA1.

The intellectual property rights associated with these genes prevented third parties from conducting research or diagnostic testing on the BRCA genes. Myriad argued that the patents were necessary to recoup the billions of dollars it spent on research to isolate the BRCA genes.

However, Justice Clarence Thomas ruled that "A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated".

In a post-ruling statement, Myriad Genetics stressed that the court had upheld its patents on complementary DNA and said that it retained "strong intellectual protection" for its BRCA test.

Sandra Park, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, Women's Rights Project, initiated the case on behalf of scientists, cancer patients and medical associations.  Park stated that: "Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them. Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued."


Article Published July 17, 2013