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US gene patenting legal battle continues

Report of a story in the news   |   By Dr Philippa Brice   |   Published 10 April 2011

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Genomics Law Report

A panel for the US Federal Court of Appeals, which rules on issues of intellectual property, is examining whether patenting of human gene sequence should be allowed to continue.

The long-running legal battle arising from disputes over patents for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes held by Myriad (see previous news) could result in fundamental changes to intellectual property relating to human gene sequences; last year the US government said that such patents should not be permitted even for isolated DNA sequences (see previous news). Now the panel judges have been debating whether or not such patents should ever have been granted, and whether revoking them would produce a change so dramatic that it could destablise the biotechtology industry. 


The dispute is expected to reach the US Supreme Court eventually, with the outcome remaining far from clear;  the potential rift between the US Justice Department and Patent and Trademark Office continues. Certainly, the pressure for a change in gene patenting is rising; commentator Dan Vorhaus notes the potential for conflict given the rise of whole genome sequencing technologies and their application for all kinds of personalised medicine.

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