January 28, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2015

CONTACT: Crystal Cooper, 212-519-7894, media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – American molecular diagnostic company Myriad Genetics has settled litigation seeking to enforce patents on two genes associated with hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. The company has agreed to dismiss its claims against four laboratories and is discussing settlements with the remaining laboratories. 

“Patients who need access to life-changing genetic testing should not be caught in the legal battle that Myriad Genetics has unfairly waged against competing laboratories, nor should scientists face the threat and cost of patent litigation,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “Myriad’s decision reinforces the basic principle that patents should never permit one company to lock up a product of nature, such as our own genetic information.”

The U.S. Supreme Court invalidated patents on BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes in its 2013 decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation brought the case on behalf of 20 scientific associations, genetic counselors, women patients, cancer survivors, and breast cancer and women’s health groups.

Following the Supreme Court decision, Myriad filed patent lawsuits against several laboratories that began offering BRCA genetic testing. In friend of the court briefs, the ACLU argued that the patent claims asserted by Myriad also covered products of nature, laws of nature, and abstract ideas and were therefore invalid. A federal district court in Utah denied Myriad’s request to stop another laboratory from offering testing in March 2014, and in December 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit concluded that Myriad’s patents are invalid under the Patent Act.

“The courts have spoken and now it’s time for the U.S. Patent Office to strictly enforce the prohibition on patenting products of nature moving forward,” said Park.

More information about the ACLU’s work on genetic patents is available at:
https://www.aclu.org/free-speech-technology-and-liberty-womens-rights/association-molecular-pathology-v-myriad-genetics

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