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US Court Sides With Gene Patents 255

ananyo writes "Gene patents have been upheld in a landmark case over two genes associated with hereditary forms of breast and ovarian cancer. The lawsuit against Myriad Genetics, a diagnostic company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, that holds patents on the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, has bounced from court to court since 2010. In a 2-1 decision today, a federal appeals court reaffirmed their latest decision that genes represent patent-eligible matter. As noted before on Slashdot, the case will have major implications for cancer researchers, patients and drug makers."
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US Court Sides With Gene Patents

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  • Smoking Crack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @06:42PM (#41017753) Homepage Journal

    While Judge Koh suggests Apple is “smoking crack” in another case, I'm going to suggest that judges are smoking crack here.

    What other natural phenomenon can I patent? The shape of a quartz crystal perhaps?

  • Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @06:47PM (#41017801)

    But according to the latest judges, the patents Myriad holds do not reiterate these laws. In the courtâ(TM)s decision, Judge Alan Lourie writes: âoeEach of the claimed molecules represents a nonnaturally occurring composition of matter."

    Like hell they are. This judge needs to go back to HS biology.


  • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @06:55PM (#41017881)

    The beauty of law is its ambiguity.

    Certainly, for those who make six figures exploiting such ambiguity it is.
    For people who actually just want to know whether a given action makes the liable or not, the ambiguity of the law is contrary to its fundamental purpose.

  • by jd2112 ( 1535857 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @07:01PM (#41017953)
    On the other hand if you have medical issues related to patented genes perhaps you could sue the patent holder.
  • by sjames ( 1099 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @07:03PM (#41017973) Homepage Journal

    Likewise, if THEIR genes are causing a woman's breast cancer, they will naturally be held responsible, right? After all, if MY dog bites someone, I get the medical bills.

  • by Grave ( 8234 ) <> on Thursday August 16, 2012 @07:20PM (#41018153)

    Scientists very rarely do any of the amazingly awesome stuff they do because they want tons of money. The people who fund the scientists only do so because they expect to make tons of money off of them. This is a very important distinction. Just like politics, if we remove money from the equation, a lot of good can happen. Medical and scientific progress shouldn't depend on the ability to turn a profit.

  • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @07:23PM (#41018179)

    Ambiguity helps to prevent exploits.

    Or allow them. It cuts both ways.

    And that's assuming it's even possible to craft an unambiguous law. Human language isn't particularly well suited to that task.

    And in that case, the ambiguity is an unfortunate side-effect, not "the beauty of the law"

    An ambiguous law almost inevitably leads to selective enforcement. This is a bad thing, because it puts power in the hands of the interpreters of the law, rather than the law itself.

  • Re:Smoking Crack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 16, 2012 @07:29PM (#41018235)

    It must be the same crack that causes an opposite ruling of the one the Supreme Court ruled on a few months ago.

    But the real problem here is that a judicial system designed to interpret criminal law is not designed to interpret scientific merit or results. The entire premise of the system is faulty. Patents eligibility should not be decided by criminal courts, nor should they be processed as if the only merit for approval is that the legal forms and fees are paid.

  • Re:Smoking Crack (Score:3, Insightful)

    by X0563511 ( 793323 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @08:03PM (#41018587) Homepage Journal

    I can see it now: emotional patents.

  • Re:Smoking Crack (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Forty Two Tenfold ( 1134125 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @08:20PM (#41018733)
    It's sad when cynicism replaces outrage.
  • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @09:31PM (#41019281)

    just remember: science flies you to mars. religion flies you into buildings.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @10:09PM (#41019505)

    > The product of PCR generally does not occur in that form in nature. It is a manufactured nucleic acid

    Perhaps you don't understand PCR yourself. PCR makes identical copies of the molecule. It's the way PCR works. It's the same molecule as found in nature, just run through a metaphorical photocopier enough times to make it easier to handle.

    Your logic is like saying saying you can patent a mountain because you took a picture of it.


  • Re:Smoking Crack (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @10:32PM (#41019607)
    Dude, everybody in the US has trouble understanding the legal system in the US. It just don't make sense no matter how you slice it, even when you use a chainsaw.
  • Re:Smoking Crack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Thursday August 16, 2012 @10:51PM (#41019685)

    No, it will. Most slashdotters are male, I'm guessing. Their mothers, sisters, maybe GFs, etc., now face expensive custom gene cures for BC.

    And guys that are hoping for prostate cancer breakthroughs will also have come up with more dosh to keep living.

    Cancer isn't the only problem. Think of the Monsanto problem. Genes that grow money in the form of drought resistant food stuffs. Genetic material is a program, and the variables are the sequences, and the sequences are numbers, and numbers aren't patentable, they're data in the program of life. Life shouldn't be patentable; it exists in nature. Altering the numbers produces different results. What.A.Surprise.

  • Re:Smoking Crack (Score:4, Insightful)

    by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Friday August 17, 2012 @12:01AM (#41020009)

    The lawyers, judges (previous lawyers whose colleagues are all lawyers, and politicians (over 80% are lawyers) have established a pretty serious level of JOB SECURITY, haven't they?

  • Re:Smoking Crack (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pepty ( 1976012 ) on Friday August 17, 2012 @12:18AM (#41020077)
    Oops, meant to post this under my user name:

    Two points:

    -This was about a test for risk factors for breast cancer, not a treatment. Treatments for breast cancer, gene based or no, GMOs, etc would be patentable regardless of the outcome of this case.

    -This result really doesn't matter in the long run when it comes to the cost of getting genetic tests.

    Within a few years the cost of getting ALL of the tests ALL AT ONCE will be below $1500. All of the genetic tests that are ever developed by any company anywhere. Why? Because the cost of sequencing your entire genome will soon be that cheap, and using your own sequence to find out what alleles you have that are relevant to various diseases neatly avoids the “Each of the claimed molecules represents a nonnaturally occurring composition of matter.” rationale for the patent being valid.

    The one exception would be sequencing tumors themselves to see which mutations they have developed, but that's another kettle of fish.

  • Re:Smoking Crack (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Friday August 17, 2012 @04:46AM (#41021425) Homepage

    I think that the people who have these genes should sue the hell out of the "owners" for giving them cancer.

We declare the names of all variables and functions. Yet the Tao has no type specifier.