In Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. United States Patent and Trademark Office, et al., a collection of civil liberties groups sued the US Patent and Trademark Office which had granted 7 patents to the breast cancer genes to the University of Utah. The plaintiffs claimed that the assignment of the patents was unlawful since genes are products of nature and thus cannot be patented under the US Constitution or federal statute. In a lengthy opinion, that is the first of its kind, Judge Robert Sweet of the US District Court for the SDNY sided with the plaintiffs. He ruled that “DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information” and thus is not the proper subject of a patent. If the decision stands — and appeals are inevitable — the case will likely have a major impact on the business of medical research.
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