Court's gene ruling hailed
In a unanimous decision that is a mixed bag for the multibillion-dollar pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, the court distinguished between genes found in the human body and those created in the lab.
At the same time, Thomas and his fellow justices determined that so-called "complementary DNA," which is synthetic, is "patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring."
"The real positive advantage around this ruling is that it shifts the innovation issues from simply discovering the gene, which is a product of nature, to one of using the gene to do something important," Israel said. "The real value of these things is how they can be used to help people."
But Israel said allowing free use of the discoveries holds potential for other breakthrough discoveries for which researchers may be entitled to patent protection.
"We are thrilled," said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Sandra S. Park, who argued the case. "The question before the court was a simple one, but it had profound consequences."
More broadly, Park said the ruling could call into question the validity of patents that have been issued for about 4,000 other human genes.
Myriad officials accentuated the positive in the court's decision, stressing how the court agreed that lab-synthesized genes, dubbed cDNA, still may be patented, as may the scientific methods used in isolating genes.
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