Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Decided

June 13, 2013

Whether human genes can be patented.

Supreme Court Decision

VICTORY! On June 13, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated patents on two genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) on behalf of researchers, genetic counselors, patients, breast cancer and women's health groups, and medical professional associations representing 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals.
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Who Owns Your Body?

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Case Summary and Information

On May 12, 2009, the ACLU and the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed a lawsuit charging that patents on two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, are unconstitutional and invalid. On November 30, 2012, the Supreme Court agreed to hear argument on the patentability of human genes. The ACLU argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court on April 15, 2013. We expect a decision this summer.

On behalf of researchers, genetic counselors, women patients, cancer survivors, breast cancer and women's health groups, and scientific associations representing 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals, we have argued that human genes cannot be patented because they are classic products of nature. The suit charges that the gene patents violate the First Amendment and stifle diagnostic testing and research that could lead to cures and that they limit women's options regarding their medical care.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has granted thousands of patents on human genes – in fact, about 20 percent of our genes are patented. A gene patent holder has the right to prevent anyone from studying, testing or even looking at a gene. As a result, scientific research and genetic testing has been delayed, limited or even shut down due to concerns about gene patents.

Timeline

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of researchers, genetic counselors, women patients, cancer survivors, breast cancer and women's health groups, and scientific associations representing 150,000 geneticists, pathologists, and laboratory professionals. The lawsuit charges that patents on human genes violate the First Amendment and patent law because genes are "products of nature" and therefore can't be patented.
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Plaintiffs

Read the statements and check out the biographies of our plaintiffs.

The Fight to Take Back Our Genes

A special feature explaining the ACLU challenge to patenting our genes.
Learn More About BRCA »

BRCA: Frequently Asked Questions

A resource designed to help breakdown the ACLU case against gene patenting.
Read the FAQs »

Video: The Fight to Take Back Our Genes?

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