Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari for Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, a case addressing the question of "whether human genes are patentable." In August of this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the genes in question were patentable, because the defendant's method of extracting the genes changed their molecular structure (but not their genetic codes). Under Supreme Court precedent, "laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas" are not patentable (Diamond v. Diehr, 450 U.S. 175, 185). However, the "application" of a law of nature may be patentable – the patent proposed "must limit its reach to a particular, inventive application of the law" (Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., 132 S. Ct. 1289 (2012)).
The patents at issue in this case involve genes associated with breast and ovarian cancers. The plaintiff and its supporters argue that allowing patents on these genes restricts potentially life-saving research and ultimately harms women. On the other side, supporters of the patents argue that denying patents may have negative effects on investments in technology. For more information and to keep up-to-date on this and other Supreme Court developments, check out the links under U.S. S. Ct on the right side of this page. [REG]