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Federal court rules patents for breast cancer genes are invalid

Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet of New York ruled that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office should never have granted the patents on BRCA1/2 gene sequences associated with breast cancer risk to Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics.

Medpage reports:

Sweet ruled that the gene sequences are products of nature identified purely by "abstract mental processes" and therefore ineligible for patent protection.

"The clear line of Supreme Court precedent and accompanying lower court authorities... establishes that purification of a product of nature, without more, cannot transform it into patentable subject matter. Rather, the purified product must possess 'markedly different characteristics,'" the judge wrote.

Evidence presented in the case indicated that the sequences covered by the patents are "not markedly different from native DNA as it exists in nature," Sweet determined.

As mentioned in a previous post, the lawsuit is of great importance to patients, researchers, private companies and academic institutions that have exclusive rights to genes. You can read the judge's entire 156-page ruling here (.pdf).

Previously: Lawsuit over human-gene patents goes to court

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