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ACLU Asks Supreme Court to Hear Gene Patents Case

Sarah Roberts,
Speech, Privacy and Technology Project
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December 7, 2011

Today, the ACLU petitioned the Supreme Court to hear our case challenging patents on two human genes related to breast and ovarian cancer.

The case, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. vs. Myriad Genetics, et al., was filed in 2009 on behalf of medical associations, geneticists, genetic counselors, patients, and breast cancer and women’s health groups, which all have been negatively impacted by Myriad Genetics’ patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

In March 2010, a federal district court judge ruled that the patents on human genes are invalid, because they cover products of nature. However, in July 2011, in a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit partially overturned the lower court’s holding. While the appeals court agreed that Myriad’s patents on methods for comparing gene sequences are invalid, the judges decided that the patents on the genes themselves should stand.

Unless the Supreme Court agrees to take the case, companies like Myriad will continue to have the right to stop others from testing and conducting research on patented genes. Currently about 20 percent of the human genome is patented, which means that, in many instances, patients who need crucial information about their own bodies have only one place to turn. The companies that own the patents can dictate the price of testing — in Myriad’s case, well over $3,000 — and prohibit second opinions.

We hope that the Supreme Court will take this opportunity to recognize that genes are indeed unpatentable “products of nature,” and that the only person who can own your genes is you.

Learn more about the case at Get breaking news and updates by liking Don’t Patent My Genes! Liberate the Breast Cancer Genes! on Facebook.

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