The biotech industry breathed a sigh of relief last week when a federal court again upheld companies’ ability to patent human genes.
Civil libertarians have challenged the industry, starting with Myriad Genetics
, arguing that to own a patent involving human genetic material is the same as patenting “products of nature,” which is illegal.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) won its first case in 2010, when it sued to nullify Myriad Genetics’ patents on the BRCA-1 BRCA-2 genes, which can help detect breast cancer.
The company last year appealed to a federal appellate court and won a decision affirming its patents.
It was then the ACLU’s turn to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court
. But the high court refused to hear the case and bumped it back to a federal appeals court. There, a three-judge panel upheld the previous appellate decision that left Myriad Genetics’ patents in place.
In a 2-to1 decision, the judges ruled that “isolated” human genes are patentable.
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