Supreme Court rule that natural DNA cannot be patented – sources and early feedback

By Grant Jacobs 14/06/2013

In the tiny hours last night (local time: yes, I was up working…) the Supreme Court released it’s opinion on patenting genes. The overriding opinion is that natural DNA cannot be patented, but cDNA can:
A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring.
The full document can be downloaded (PDF) online.
It’s a mixed result, as opinion showed. Below are sources of reading on the decision and opinions from twitter. Let’s let Francis Collin, Director of the NIH (the largest biological science funding agency in the USA) have the first say:

SC: “A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and is not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated” Woo Hoo!!!

Places to read about it

I’ll be reading SCOTUSblog to figure out what the gene patent case means 

Supreme Court in 9-0 ruling says human genes cannot be patented via   ‘ingTime

Wall St. Journal on Myriad Ruling: Supreme Court Rules Isolated Human Genes Can’t Be Patented 

’s gene patent ruling “ p. 1-3 of the actual judgement is fairly readable ” 

US Supreme Court Rules (Unanimously) That Human Genes May Not Be Patented

Big news: Supreme Court finally rules on gene patents. Naturally occurring genes CANNOT be patented

Opinion: bad science

One of my own concerns about the whole process has been the poor understanding of the science on display. How to make a decision when there is clearly a lack of (full) understanding of the thing being decided upon? The ruling itself features more awkward science, as many picked up immediately –

The first paragraph of the Supreme Court’s Myraid ruling botches the science. I’m not optimistic here.

. what it means is that the  justices clearly do not understand the core dogma of molecular biology.

 decision about DNA as chemical. In real world DNA transcodable w/ bits.  just made info patentable. Really bad juju here.

 Supreme Court gets a failing grade in Bio 101, but gets the decision right.

Really? Antonin Scalia Does Not Believe in Molecular Biology 

Genetics Errors in Supreme Court Decision  by 

At least Scalia admits he doesn’t understand the science…

Opinion: other stuff

I’m guessing split  decision — synth DNA *can*( be patented — will create a v sticky situation.  

And no PR worries, apparently. MT  still has 500+ valid claims in 24 patents for BRACAnalysis® test.  

 The PLoS blog is wrong on pseudogenes. Composite cDNA is only in the summary; Thomas gets it right. My comments at the post.

Supreme Court announcement has already allowed  competitors to step into the BRCA test fray: 

“A cDNA is created in the lab and…is not a DNA sequence that occurs in nature” << Discuss  (via )

the logic of the cDNA part of SCOTUS ruling is weird: cDNA doesn’t exist in nature because it doesn’t have introns? what about mRNA?

  NHGRI is livecasting discussion of Myriad decision. Larry Brody is up first. 

“The court said that DNA molecules synthesized in a laboratory were eligible for patent protection. Myriad’s shares soared after…ruling.”

The interesting thing about the SCOTUS gene ruling is going to the boundary between “naturally-occurring” and “synthetic.”

Hopefully, US Supreme Court ‘natural DNA sequences aren’t patentable’ decision finally settles great ‘But what if..’ of genome project era.

So I think a key question about the SCOTUS ruling on patenting human DNA is what will happen with DNA from other species …

Ass’n for Molec. Path. v. Myriad Genetics (6/13/13) Can you patent it? A DNA segment, no cDNA, yes

. asks: Can bedside DNA Dx tests be done w’out significant investment depending on gene patents? (I blv Yes, since they r.)

Makes zero scientific sense. RT : I think. Although does saying cDNA is not natural make sense to you?

From Daniel Fisher at : Supreme Court Rejects Human-Gene Patents — Sort Of

SCOTUS verdict on gene patenting “not as complete a victory as it may seem” <<< It’s the cDNA (via )



Excuse what formatting issues remain. It’s been a struggle producing this post — cut’n’paste from twitter to WordPress, then editing in WordPress doesn’t want to play well (to be very polite about it) and I’ve no time to explore solutions.

 Other articles on Code for life:

Appeals court concludes that Myriad can patent BRCA genes

Gene patents, an amicus curiae

Myriad Genetics patent of BRCA (breast cancer) genes denied

Haemophilia – towards a cure using genetic engineering

Codebreakers – Wellcome traces the origins of modern genetics

GMOs and the plants we eat: neither are ‘natural’

Genetic tests and personalised medicine

0 Responses to “Supreme Court rule that natural DNA cannot be patented – sources and early feedback”

  • I’d like to add my own thoughts, but that’s unlikely to happen before next week I’m afraid — don’t let that stop you from expressing yours!

  • Quick note regards “The overriding opinion is that natural DNA cannot be patented, but cDNA can” in sentence two of my post:

    Further (skim!) reading suggests the ruling allows cDNAs to be eligible to be considered for patenting, but does not actually rule that they ‘can’ be patent as such; there is some suggestion they might be unlikely to be accepted, i.e. ruled as obvious (which is what my initial instincts would have been).

    [Edited to add missing contents of quote – opps!]

  • Interesting the Supreme Court could unanimously make the correct decision with relatively limited understanding of the science. And that the decision that will help a lot of women was written by Justice Clarence Thomas (some of us recall the controversy around his appointment). However this case only struck down 5 patents out of hundreds in the area.

  • Lot of interesting quirks about it. More seriously, though, my initial feelings are that they want to tackle the cDNA patent notion fairly promptly – it doesn’t make sense (to me, but also others) to disallow patents to ‘natural’ DNA, but allow cDNA to be open to patenting (assuming other things are met). I’ll try offer more specific thoughts on this sometime, if I can find time…!