SCOTUS Invalidates Breast Cancer Gene Patents

The Supreme Court set aside a lower court 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, giving women a rare victory over corporate interests and continuing a promising line of decisions that refuses to corporatize human genetics.

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. Last year an appellate court held those patents were valid. Now that the judgment has been vacated, the case will go back to the same three-judge panel who issued the original decision. They then decide the next steps and the timeline for the case.

“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. “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 a Supreme Court ruling earlier in the month where the Court unanimously invalidated a patent on a medical test because it covered a “law of nature.”

“Nobody ‘invents’ genes, so no one should be able to claim ownership of them,” said Daniel B. Ravicher, executive director of PUBPAT and co-counsel in the lawsuit. “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.”

The decision is especially important because it quite literally will save women’s lives. “Preventing the free flow of ideas regarding genetic testing is not only unlawful, it is dangerous to patients,” said Sandra Park, staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “Women are staking their lives on the results of these tests. They deserve to have the best quality care. It is encouraging that the court has determined that the appellate court’s decision requires further review.”

For once the high court sided with individuals over corporate interests, an encouraging development especially in light of the concerns over whether or not the court will invalidate Obamacare.

Related Stories:

Patents On Cancer Genes Ruled Invalid

Slowing The Cure For Cancer

Photo from Stew Dan via flickr.


Shelly Peterson
Shelly Peterson7 years ago


Sandra F.
Sandra K7 years ago

Sounds suspiciously like Monsanto with seed patent, only now with humans! Soon we'll all "belong" to the corporations... time to hunker down in the woods! LOL!!!

Maitreya L7 years ago

Nobody should be able to patent any genes, especially naturally occurring ones.

Heidi Aubrey
Heidi Aubrey7 years ago

I completely agree with the article, no one can patent what already exist in nature. Inventions are patentable not existing DNA.

Brenna T.
Brenna T.7 years ago

If they want to own it, if something is wrong with the gene/marker, would they pay for a defective product. It only makes sense to me.

Karen C.
Karen C7 years ago

The willingness to profit while causing others harm continues to amaze me!

David L.
David L7 years ago

Too many shady investment companies like these are using patent lawyers and corrupt lower American courts to gain "ownership" of genotypes, processes, formulas, methodologies and associated "properties" that they simply have no real legitimate. legal, moral or ethical titles or rights to ~ but they still manage to "steal" this ownership that they don't deserve...

They don't come up with any new ideas, nor observations.
They don't do research.
They may be involved in fund-raising, but don't spend their own money.
They don't take the risks.

And yet these "corporate interests" ~ mainly through hiring expensive law firms (or even establishing their own..), shady accountants, finding "friendly" patent courts ~ still manage to tie up intellectual property rights, inventions and methodologies...

And then threaten to only provide their "properties" to the highest bidders !?!

Ain't corporate America GREAT, folks !!! Or not...

And it's supporters are trolling around here continuously, as well..
HERE troll, trollie, troll, trolls...


david weitendorf
david weitendorf7 years ago

Fn corporate blood suckers. Were is a sharp stake when you need one. Glad someone stuck em.

nancy d.
nancy B7 years ago

This is wonderful news!!!!

Elizabeth Grimshaw

Power to the people, not the corporations!