Is it possible to patent genes? The debate continues

In 2013, the U.S. Supreme court unanimously revoked the patents on two human genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2 — related breast cancer and ovarian. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that isolated DNA “is a product of nature and not subject to patenting”. This is a historic decision invalidated patents owned by Myriad Genetics, the defendant in the lawsuit in 2009 filed by dozens of patients. Because of this, today more than a dozen companies can tell you what your genes BRCA talking about the risk to get cancer.

But now legislators in Washington are weighing a new proposal that cancels this is a landmark decision and other recent rulings that created judicial exceptions to Federal patent law. Discusses the notion that natural phenomena, observing the laws of nature and abstract ideas cannot be patented. This legal precedent includes a major victory for the software industry against the plague of patent trolls. If successful, this bill could transform the genetic resources of the world in commercial possession, forcing scientists to carry out fundamental research under the constant threat of litigation risks.

Patented genes

A bipartisan bill, released last month by senators Tom Tillison and Chris Koons, amends several sections of the Statute on patent law and adds a provision that Annuls the exclusion of the Supreme court in relation to it. Critics of these decisions saying that they are giving US inconsistent and overly hard on the law of patents, to the detriment of innovation. At the same time, technological competitors, in particular China, is accelerating. The proponents of the current legal doctrine fear that the reform will bring US in the days when it was possible to put intellectual property on anything from DNA sequences to the act of scanning and sending the file by a single mouse click.

In the proposed legislation on patent reform has faced in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries and the Internet giants of Silicon valley. Now the senators will listen to the concerns of both parties and will proceed to compromise in the final bill that could be introduced in the Senate later this summer.

“If I were the CEO of the company in the field of technology and software, I’d like to keep the status quo, because it provides certainty,” says Tillis. “Unfortunately, this is only part of our current innovation economy. I fear for the US economy as a whole.”

The case will be forty-five experts, including law professors, former judges, former heads of the patent and trade Bureau, representatives of pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies, associations representing Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

Secondly note that their bill does not actually revives the powers of companies to patent human genes or other fundamental scientific discoveries. “I want to be clear in one,” Kuhn said Tuesday. “Our proposal does not change the law, allowing her to patent a gene that exists in humans”.

However, in this case there is one provision, which breed different interpretations.

“They don’t say, well, you can now patent a natural phenomenon,” says one critic of the bill. “They say that it may be difficult to determine what is an abstract idea, which is the law of nature and what we mean when we say “natural phenomena”. The new bill creates a legal challenge for patent examiners, which should give these things the definition instead refer to the precedents of the Supreme court.

A new legal test includes the updated definition of the term “useful”. To be eligible for patent, discovery or invention, the discovery or invention should now be clearly identifiable benefit that is made possible only through the intervention of man. And all this should fit into “the technological area”, which, according to experts, will create a safe zone for pure scientific research. These new conditions must hold human genes and other “laws of nature” are not available to patent holders.

I wonder if bill passes, how will change or not change the scope of patenting in the U.S. and around the world? Let’s discuss this in our chat in Telegram.

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