Blog of Rights

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.

The Fight to Take Back Our Genes

Myriad Genetics’ Latest Attempt to Maintain Its Monopoly on Our Genes Rejected

By Sandra Park, ACLU at 11:02am

Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling invalidating patents on human genes.  The case was brought by the ACLU, along with the Public Patent Foundation, on behalf of 20medical organizations, geneticists, health advocacy groups,…

Aerial view of the U.S. Patent Office building; Image source: Cliff/Flickr

Is the "Patent Happy" Patent Office Violating the First Amendment?

By Sandra S. Park, Staff Attorney, ACLU Women's Rights Project at 2:43pm

Last April, during the Supreme Court oral arguments in our case challenging patents on human genes, Justice Kagan remarked, "The PTO seems very patent happy." Her comment, and the unanimous decision invalidating gene patents, clearly expressed the…

Don't Segregate Boys and Girls in Classrooms

Don't Segregate Boys and Girls in Classrooms

By Michael Kimmel, Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies, Stony Brook University at 11:35am

Is your daughter a tomboy? Your son not especially into football? Does your daughter excel at math...

Religion Isn’t a Free Pass to Discriminate Against Employees

Religion Isn’t a Free Pass to Discriminate Against Employees

By Christina Brandt-Young, Attorney, ACLU Women's Rights Project & Jenny Lee, Staff Attorney, American Civil Liberties Union at 5:49pm

Across the country teachers at religiously affiliated schools are being fired for their reproductive choices.  What’s worse, the schools are unapologetic, claiming they have the right to discriminate because of their religious beliefs.

Emily…

Note to Military: Sexual Assault Includes Rape

Note to Military: Sexual Assault Includes Rape

By Sandra S. Park, Staff Attorney, ACLU Women's Rights Project at 5:59pm

The government has turned a blind eye to these crimes has allowed them to continue, imperiling the lives of victims and degrading their service.

A Vote For Women, A Vote For CEDAW

By Aliya Hussain, Women's Rights Project at 11:08am
In January 1917, Alison Turnbull Hopkins pickets for suffrage outside the White House gate.

During the winter of 1916–1917, suffragists…

How I'm Celebrating Gloria Steinem's Birthday

How I'm Celebrating Gloria Steinem's Birthday

By Diana Scholl, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 8:23am

What would happen, for instance, if suddenly, magically, men could menstruate and women could not? The answer is clear - menstruation would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event: Men would brag about how long and how much. Boys…

Alabama: Another Unlawful Single-Sex Program Goes Co-Ed

Alabama: Another Unlawful Single-Sex Program Goes Co-Ed

By Amy L. Katz, ACLU Women's Rights Project at 11:11am

A Birmingham, AL public middle school has agreed to abandon unlawful single-sex classes as the result of ACLU action that led to an investigation by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), the federal agency charged with enforcing…

New Report Shows 95% of Campus Rapes Go Unreported

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 12:10pm

Yesterday, Vanessa at Feministing blogged on a study by the Center for Public Integrity about sexual assault on campus. The figure of campus rapes that go unreported is 95 percent—a sad and shocking state of affairs. And for those that are…