Supreme Court Vacates Decision Upholding Gene Patents, Remands PUBPAT/ACLU Case to Appeals Court: Justices Order Court that Hears Patent Cases to Reconsider Decision That Limited Access to Crucial Genetic TestingNEW YORK – The U.S. Supreme Court today set aside a ruling that allowed a company to patent two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer and limit access to potentially life-saving genetic tests for at-risk women.
The Public Patent Foundation (PUBAT) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the patents held by Myriad Genetics on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which a divided 2-1 Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last year ruled were valid (although it ruled other challenged patents on methods of genetic diagnosis were invalid).
“Nobody ‘invents’ genes, so no one should be able to claim ownership of them,” said Daniel B. Ravicher, executive director of PUBPAT. “We are not talking about a new drug or a new tool to fight cancer. We are talking about a genetic marker that occurs naturally in the human body. That cannot, and should not, be patented.”
With the judgment vacated, the case will be sent back to the same Court of Appeals who issued the split July decision. They can decide the next steps and the timeline for the case and then issue a decision with the same or a different outcome.
“In light of recent rulings from the court that mere laws of nature cannot be patented, we hope that the lower court will come to the correct conclusion this time around,” said Chris Hansen, staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “It’s inconceivable that a company can own a patent on something as naturally occurring as DNA.”
The Supreme Court ordered the Federal Circuit to reconsider its decision in light of the high-court’s ruling last week in Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus, where the justices unanimously invalidated a patent on a medical test because it covered a “law of nature.”
For more information on this case, please visit www.pubpat.org/brca.htm.