Last year, several doctors' groups, together with the ACLU and Public Patent Foundation, filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate patents on two genes related to breast cancer and owned by Utah-based Myriad Genetics. The plaintiffs, who can be viewed as arguing more broadly against all genetic patents, claimed in the suit that such patents are not only illegal under the nation's patent laws, but also unconstitutional.
On Monday afternoon, the plaintiffs won. Ruling on summary judgment motions filed by both sides, New York federal district court Judge Robert Sweet ruled on summary judgment invalidated Myriad's patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. In his 152-page opinion [PDF], Sweet wrote that the patents in question cover parts of the natural world and therefore don't conform to section 101 of U.S. patent laws, which those govern what qualifies as patentable subject matter.
Sweet agreed with the ACLU's basic argument that the "isolated" DNA that Myriad claimed to have patented is still a product of nature, and can't be covered by patents. He wrote: "It is concluded that DNA's existence in an 'isolated' form alters neither this fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes. Therefore, the patents at issue directed to 'isolated DNA' containing sequences found in nature are unsustainable as a matter of law and are deemed unpatentable subject matter."