Blog of Rights

Selene
Kaye

Why Gene Patents Are Unlawful

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 11:46am

(Originally posted on ACSBlog.)

Last week the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government's practice of granting patents on human genes - specifically, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancer. In the last 20 or so years the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has issued patents on thousands of human genes — the segments of DNA that we all have in our cells — giving private corporations, individuals, and universities the exclusive rights to those genetic sequences and their usage.

The patents on the BRCA genes are particularly broad and offensive. The PTO has granted Myriad Genetics, a private biotechnology company based in Utah, patents on both the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic sequences, on any mutations along those genes, on any methods for locating mutations on the genes, without further specification on the type of methods, and on correlations between genetic mutations and susceptibility to breast and ovarian cancer.

The lawsuit charges, as critics of gene patents have argued for years, that gene patents stifle biomedical research and interfere with patients' access to genetic testing. The lawsuit argues that the patents on the BRCA genes are unconstitutional and invalid given the long-standing legal precedent that "products of nature" and "laws of nature" are not patentable. The suit also makes the novel argument that the practice of patenting genes, their correlations with disease, and the thought of comparing two genes violates the First Amendment and interferes with scientific freedom.

Who Owns Your Genes?

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 7:45pm

Today the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. government’s practice of granting patents on human genes – specifically, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which are associated with breast and ovarian cancer.…

Who Owns Your Genes? You Do.

Who Owns Your Genes? You Do.

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 5:18pm

On Monday, federal district court Judge Robert Sweet made history by issuing the first ruling ever that human genes can’t be patented.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has been issuing patents on human genes for over 20 years,…

“An Environment Which Fosters the Health, Self-Respect and Dignity of the Child”

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 11:50am

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most comprehensive treaty on children’s rights. The convention has been ratified by nearly every country in the world, except for the United States. The…

First Ever Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Becomes Law

By Rahul Saksena, New York Civil Liberties Union & Selene Kaye, ACLU at 4:48pm

Earlier today, New York Gov. David Paterson signed the first law ever in the United States to give domestic workers the same protections that most other workers have enjoyed for decades. The enactment of the New York Domestic Workers Bill of…

Breast Cancer, Patenting Human Genes, and Your Civil Liberties

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 8:01pm

On Tuesday evening, Joanna Rudnick joined the ACLU at Tribeca Cinemas to screen her award-winning documentary film, In the Family, and discuss the patenting of human genes, a practice that has serious implications for women like Joanna who have a genetic…

First Hearing Held in the Breast Cancer Gene Patents Challenge

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 1:28pm

Fittingly, on the eve of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, plaintiffs had their first hearing in federal court yesterday in their challenge to the breast cancer gene patents. The government's granting of exclusive rights to the BRCA1 and 2 human genes…

Strip-Searching and Solitary Confinement of Girls at Texas "State School"

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 1:53pm
Entrance to "Freedom Dorm" at Brownwood State School

It could not be more ironic that one of the buildings that contains the holding cells of the Brownwood State School – a high-security youth prison in central Texas — is called “Freedom…

Revaluing "Women's Work:" Ending the Exploitation and Abuse of Domestic Workers

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 2:02pm

A reminder to those of you in the New York area to join us tomorrow at the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women for a film screening and discussion about the human rights of domestic workers.

For decades, nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers…

Three New Marriage States in Two Weeks – All Eyes Are On You, Illinois!

Three New Marriage States in Two Weeks – All Eyes Are On You, Illinois!

By Selene Kaye, ACLU at 10:34am

Yesterday, Minnesota became the 12th state in the country to approve a law allowing same-sex couples to marry. This comes on the heels of Rhode Island and Delaware approving freedom to marry laws in the last two weeks, and historic victories at the…

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