BRCA - Statement of Support: International Center for Technology Assessment

Document Date: May 12, 2009

We want to congratulate the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation for bringing this historic lawsuit against the patenting of human DNA material. DNA and other elements of living cells and organisms do not fit into the definition of patentable subject matter under current law. Clearly life forms and their biological elements are not “machines, manufactures or and inventor’s compositions of matter,” the only categories allowed to be patented.

By allowing patents on human DNA, cells and on plants and animals and their cells and DNA, the patent office has illegally allowed for a corporate monopoly on life itself. Life and its elements should be the common heritage of all and available to all to learn from, wonder at and utilize. Accordingly, ICTA and the Center for Food Safety over the last several years have successfully challenged patents on various plants and animals gaining rescission of patents on broccoli, beagles and rabbits.

The patenting of human and animal genes by the Patent Office also displays an ignorance of science that is increasingly demonstrating that genes or in fact the rest of DNA do not in themselves “cause” particular diseases. However, by patenting a particular sector of DNA — the gene — a company can interfere with research that could reveal other parts of the cell’s and the organism’s biology that might contribute to a disease.

We are confident that the ACLU legal challenge will result in the USPTO recognizing that the mere “discovery” of human and animal genes of other parts of the organism should be considered neither novel nor non-obvious. After all, this USPTO action is as legally incoherent as the idea of granting Galileo a patent on the moons of Jupiter because his telescope was the first to view them. We believe that a federal court will agree.

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