Patenting Genes

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Robert Cook-Deegan, director of the Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy Center for Genome Ethics, Law & Policy and Sanford School of Public Policy, discusses the federal appeals court ruling that companies can patent two isolated human genes linked to cancer.


Robert Cook-Deegan

Comments [14]

PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

@Jack Herz “We seem to be losing sight of what is invention.”

And we long ago lost sight of what the patent system is for. The negative utilitarian effects of patents were forgotten, the truth about the ethics of patent granting and ownership was forgotten¹, and the crucial question of whether they do actually “promote progress in ...” or not was transformed by mythology and propaganda into an unquestioning assumption that they do.

¹ Specifically, the “no independent invention defence” aspect was forgotten, leading to the horrible moral inversion and irony of the naïve popular myth that patents generally protect inventors from copying and 'theft' when, if anything, theft *by* patent is more common.

Aug. 03 2011 11:38 AM
John A.

Somebody with IP Lawyers build a computer simulation that predicts what I do Tomorrow.
Then charge me a fee for doing what I do as Your Intellectual property. More outrage.

Aug. 03 2011 11:07 AM
Hardkandy from NYC

Patenting genes was only understandable 20 years ago when it would take a whole PhD to clone and sequence a gene. With the advent of whole genome sequencing and publicly available gene information it should be illegal for companies to patent gene sequences unless the gene has been substantially modified for therapeutic reasons. Diagnostic tests of course should be patentable, but this should not limit th2 growth and deveopment of other tests, and as in the case of the BRCA1 and 2 diagnostics tests, the accessibility of this important diagnosis.

Aug. 03 2011 11:05 AM
john from office

Can you patent a breed of dog, like the new designer dogs??

Aug. 03 2011 11:04 AM
Mike from NYC

PS--to my previous comment: I agree that this was a disgusting ruling and I hope it is reversed!

Aug. 03 2011 11:03 AM
Nick from UWS

Since the Federal Courts of this country are completely in the pockets of corporate and industrial interests, this horrific step in support of Big Brother doesn't surprise me.

This country is truly disgusting.

Aug. 03 2011 11:03 AM
Mike from NYC

Since the logic is that the gene outside the body is not the same as the gene inside the body, if the gene or some part of it is extracted from the body by a different method, can that second company patent the "new chemical" that was created by that other method?

Aug. 03 2011 11:03 AM

How can you patent a gene? The same reason a corporation's political donations are considered free speech -- we are living in an oligarchy, soon to be transformed to a fascist state.

Aug. 03 2011 11:00 AM

I think the problem is that we're having judges make decisions on patents that involve complex science. They don't seem to have the background to really get the subtle issues these patent claims are using.

Aug. 03 2011 11:00 AM
john from NYC


Yes, it is OK to patent TECHNIQUES of isolation, processing, etc.

DNA is a fact of nature. If I ISOLATE oxygen, I cannot patent it. Oxygen is a FACT OF NATURE.

Hmmmm. I have to get off line here and rush in my patent on oxygen.

(By the way, if someone gets breast cancer, can they sue the company that owns the breast cancer gene?)

Aug. 03 2011 10:58 AM

Another great argument for nationalizing healthcare at all levels. Human life is not a commodity.

Aug. 03 2011 10:58 AM
Gabriel from NYC

Hasn't some Spanish woman claimed ownership of the moon? She should have patented it.

This is absurd and makes as much sense as corporate personhood.

I wonder how Henrietta Lacks would feel about this.

Aug. 03 2011 10:57 AM
Jack Herz from Connecticut

Unless the genes WERE CREATED (or significantly modified), not just isolated in a "pure" form, the only thing that should be patentable (my, not a legal opinion which I am not qualified to render) is the process for isolating the genes, which were invented and created by "nature". There, unless the isolation or purification is unique (nothing that someone skilled in the art would have considered "obvious"), should be no patents granted for "obvious" isolation processes either

Having said this, the Federal Court of Appeals is the arbiter of what is patentable unless it is appealed and an opinion is rendered by (I believe) the Supreme Court.

There is, however, something that is inherently and intuitively wrong in granting patents on "nature". Processes to purify or clarify into a unique and distinguishable form of what is in nature, or artificially copying nature, or a unique and unobvious method of using the genes is indeed "invention", and should be protected.

We seem to be losing sight of what is invention.

JL Herz, Ph.D.

Aug. 03 2011 10:39 AM
Jorge Torres from Queens

As someone who’s been following the Myriad gene patent case closely, I’m glad you're having a segment on the show today about it. Legal wrangling over the patentability of isolated genes is likely to continue for some time as the parties seek review of the Federal Circuit's decision. There were some highly technical jurisdictional challenges in this case, and I think the plaintiffs achieved a significant victory in simply getting the appellate court to reach the merits of their arguments. This ruling is going to open the courthouse doors for others, especially public interest groups, who would like to use the judiciary as a vehicle for shaping the nation's intellectual property policy. I expect we’ll see a host of new cases challenging laws that extend patent protection to technologies, like software, which are currently generating controversy in the public square.

Jorge Torres

Aug. 03 2011 10:31 AM

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