Congress considers allowing gene patents to keep pace with Chinese innovations

| | June 12, 2019
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A technician loads patient samples into a machine for testing at Myriad Genetics. Image: ACLU
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In 2013, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down patents on two human genes—BRCA1 and BRCA2—associated with breast and ovarian cancers. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court at the time that isolated DNA “is a product of nature and not patent eligible.”

Now lawmakers in Washington, DC, are weighing a new proposal that would upend that landmark decision and other recent rulings that created judicial exceptions to federal patent law.

The bipartisan draft bill, released last month by Senators Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Chris Coons (D-Delaware), makes changes to several sections of the statutes covering patent law and adds a provision that would nullify the Supreme Court’s exceptions to it. Critics of those decisions say they’ve left the US with incoherent and overly stringent patent eligibility rules that are hurting innovation, at a time when technological rivals, in particular China, are speeding ahead. Proponents of the current legal doctrine fear reform will send the US back to a time when you could slap intellectual property rights on almost anything.

The goal, Tillis said in his opening remarks on [June 4], was to hear concerns from both sides and move toward compromise in the form of a final bill.

Read full, original post: Congress is debating – again – whether genes can be patented

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