Australian Court Says Genes Are Patentable

from the sweat-of-the-brow? dept

While the US Supreme Court will soon be weighing in on whether or not genes are patentable in the Myriad Genetics case, we've also been following a similar case in Australia. There, a bunch of cancer patients took Myriad to court, arguing that the patent on BRCA1 is invalid (this same gene is part of the US case). Unfortunately, the court has decided that genes are, in fact, patentable if they've been isolated. This is always the key point of contention with gene patent supporters. They claim that it's the fact that they can separate the gene that makes their work patentable. In some ways this is an odd sort of "sweat of the brow" argument for patents -- and here, the judge is buying the argument completely. He says that patenting genes in the human body would be a problem... but isolating them magically makes it a different story.
There is no doubt that naturally occurring DNA and RNA as they exist inside the cells of the human body cannot be the subject of a valid patent. However, the disputed claims do not cover naturally occurring DNA and RNA as they exist inside such cells. The disputed claims extend only to naturally occurring DNA and RNA which have been extracted from cells obtained from the human body and purged of other biological materials with which they were associated.
This still seems ridiculous to me. If others figure out how to get an isolated gene as well, why should that be subject to a patent? Hopefully this is not a preview of the US Supreme Court's upcoming ruling.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Arsik Vek (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 10:35am

    So, if it's only patentable because it's isolated, does that mean adding some inert junk base sequences to it means I'm not infringing the patent?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 10:45am

      Re:

      Other good questions:

      Does patenting a gene prevent anyone else from sequencing the organism?
      Does patenting a gene prevent anyone else from isolating genes from the organism?
      Most proteins are coded for with multiple genes; does patenting an individual gene block anyone else from sequencing those proteins?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 4:25pm

        Re: Re:

        exactly my thought. This ruling is uncomfortably vague and seems to rely on a very shallow understanding of the issue at hand.

        The way it is explained, makes for far more questions than it answers and when you are setting standards for future rulings, that is a very low value solution...

         

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      JEDIDIAH, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 2:38pm

      Oh the Huge Manate!

      This made me think of ore refining.

      So I can refine something, extract out the important bits and that warrants some kind of monopoly?

      How about you give me a monopoly on GOLD Australia.

       

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    VMax, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 10:43am

    Immediately after this ruling, the judge's brain was removed from his body, purged of other biological materials and patented as well.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 10:51am

    How long until corporations declare certain humans infringe on their patents - by existing?

     

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      Mark, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 10:55am

      Re:

      Probably not the type of licenses that people are referring to when suggesting some people should have to get one before needing to produce offspring.

       

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    Arsik Vek (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:00am

    So, if I find a rock in a hole, that's not patentable. But if I dig it up, put it in a box, and call it a Pet Rock, patents away!

     

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      jack, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:21am

      Re:

      Its like this, if you unpeel a bananna, you get the patent on the stuff inside. ideally, you would only be able to patent the unwrapping process. If you had something that did something (Created a new gene), then thats different. but patenting something that existed because you 'indentified' is wrong.

       

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    crade (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:02am

    Bought and paid for.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:02am

    Did the judge not know the difference between discovery and invention. The gen exists in nature, but the means of isolating it is a human invention, something that did not previously exist. In this case a means of isolating the gene may be patentable, but not the gene itself should not be.

     

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      DCX2, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 1:37pm

      Re:

      Exactly what I was thinking. I can imagine a patent for the process by which the gene is purified - so long as it's non-obvious to those skilled in the art of genetics. But a patent on a naturally occurring sequence of information? Total BS.

       

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      shane (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 8:37pm

      Seconded

      I haven't been following this very closely, but I thought this was exactly what the issue in the US was about. Sad to see they are still pushing for the gene itself. That is unconscionable.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:04am

    Alert: By the time I post this, that sweat on the brow is already patented.

     

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    radarmonkey (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:09am

    So can I get my own, new patent on this gene if I sequence it "on the internet"?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:30am

    The Human Body - Sponsored by PharmaCorp

    How much longer until we get our nifty serial number tats which are required for buying or selling.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:36am

    So if I can patent genes and DNA does that make slavery legal in Australia as long as my slaves are made out of my own patented DNA?

    They're built out of my own property! So they should have no rights, except the right to earn me lots of money through hard labor!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 11:42am

    I've wondered if they use these rulings to entice research facilites to set up shop in hopes to create a tech hub.
    For example, look at East Texas, how many companies have empty offices there just to use it for litigation? By giving corporations what they want they hope to keep them within their borders and providing them prestige/taxes/jobs and whatnot.

     

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    Bengie, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 12:24pm

    Silly Me

    And here I thought a patent applied to a process, not an end result.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 12:48pm

    I wonder how long it will take them to patent the whole body..
    It is fucking insulting for them to think they can patent the very materials we're made up of.

    I mean look at it this way you're a scientist and you decide to isolate some genes but you're told you will be sued for messing with you own genes.

    I would support putting them all in a survival cage and making them duel to the death with wiffle bat.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 1:09pm

    Why people keep saying that patents protect inventions?
    A discovery is not an invention but people allow it to be patented?

     

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    Divide by Zero (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Ok seriously, Australian govt/judges etc, what the fuck is wrong with you. This better get overturned and the judge disqualified from the human race for being a total drop kick. And keep your sticky fingers off my genes, thank you very much. Anyone else getting an icky, slightly violated feeling from these types of shenanigans?

     

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    Divide by Zero (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 1:34pm

    Ok seriously, Australian govt/judges etc, what the fuck is wrong with you. This better get overturned and the judge disqualified from the human race for being a total drop kick. And keep your sticky fingers off my genes, thank you very much. Anyone else getting an icky, slightly violated feeling from these types of shenanigans?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 6:11pm

      Re:

      As a cancer patient and a cancer patient's spouse, the idea that anything holding back or restricting or discouraging anything to do with progress on the research front is criminal.

      It's 2013. Cancer treatment (and potential treatment for other life threatening diseases affected by a ruling like this) should not entail the human wreckage it currently does. It should not be acceptable on any level.

      Grotesque and despicable.

       

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    DannyB (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 1:36pm

    Of course genes should be patentable

    If you spent a lot of time inventing a new human gene, then shouldn't you be able to get a patent for your creative invention?

     

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      G Thompson (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 10:42pm

      Re: Of course genes should be patentable

      *sigh* I agree with you too.

      It seems that no one actually has read the actual case and the conclusion and what the whole thing was for and NOT for

      [at 136]" There is no doubt that naturally occurring DNA and RNA as they exist inside the cells of the human body cannot be the subject of a valid patent. However, the disputed claims do not cover naturally occurring DNA and RNA as they exist inside such cells. The disputed claims extend only to naturally occurring DNA and RNA which have been extracted from cells obtained from the human body and purged of other biological materials with which they were associated. [emphasis added]"

      And as Justice Nichols states "[He] must apply the law as explained in NRDC" [at 135]

      This was a strange case since the actual Applicant(s) has ceased to exist now and was basically formed for the sole purpose of taking this case to Court. Personally based on the evidence presented and what the whole case was about there was no other conclusion that could of been reached though this doesn't mean that Human genes can be patented just that DNA/RNA that was first found in the Human body and then manipulated and transformed into something different can be.

      ie: Creative transformation based on sweat of the brow and therefore absolutely patentable. legally correct, I will leave it up to others if it is ethically correct.

       

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        aidian, Feb 16th, 2013 @ 6:52am

        Re: Re: Of course genes should be patentable

        So maybe I'm stupid, but after this:

        "The disputed claims extend only to naturally occurring DNA and RNA which have been extracted from cells obtained from the human body and purged of other biological materials with which they were associated."

        what you're left with is DNA and RNA that came from the human body. Isolate, purified even, only the good parts, but how is that not patenting something that exists inside the human body? Is it being transformed into something new? Because otherwise it seems like the genetic equivalent of patenting boneless skinless chicken breasts or something. That can't really be the state of the law?

         

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        shane (profile), Feb 16th, 2013 @ 7:10am

        Re: Re: Of course genes should be patentable

        "...just that DNA/RNA that was first found in the Human body and then manipulated and transformed into something different can be."

        It's not being transformed into anything else. It is still human DNA from a human body.

        Most people here are pretty familiar with the basics of this and similar suits, and have very good reasons for not wanting this sort of IP. You put people who do any sort of gene therapy at risk of lawsuit for no good reason, no matter what method they use, because the gene they are working on is patented.

        This is absurd on its face.

         

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    doewnskitty, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 2:08pm

    You can patent the technology that manipulates nature in some way, whether it be a technique particular to genetic modification or a new kind of chainsaw, but I don't think you can really put a patent on what is essentially nature.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 2:38pm

    Mother Nature is Pissed

    Ree, eeee, eeee, eeee, eeee Tarded!

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 4:41pm

    So what is going to happen once every human gene has been isolated and patented? All research on the human genome and curing genetic diseases will grind to a halt thanks to all the fees corporations will slap on any attempt to study human DNA. Is that really the bleak future these judges want to bring about with these short-sighted rulings?

     

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    identicon
    Mike Maxwell, Feb 15th, 2013 @ 8:15pm

    I support everyone else's right to use my genes for cloning, or anything else for that matter.

    Free information for all!!
    Privacy for none!!
    Make everything public!!

    WE have earned it, after all.

    In the meantime, I hope you don't mind if I help myself to your bank account. It's just information, after all.

    In all seriousness: This is an issue that is far from settled. The debate over the patenting of genes is the first darkening cloud on the horizon. Anyone who thinks that the issue of ownership over information has a clear "right" or "wrong" side, is scarcely worthy of consideration.

     

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      shane (profile), Feb 15th, 2013 @ 8:47pm

      Hu-Whah?

      I can't decide what you're talking about.

      Knowledge about genes in general is simply knowledge about something naturally occurring. You can't patent a rock, and you can't patent a gene. At least, not and remain honest.

      Privacy is more like, you can't steal and look at MY genes, which indeed has an application if we are moving to an insurance based medical system where risk determines whether or not you get treatment.

       

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    Nikhil Phirke, Feb 16th, 2013 @ 12:34am

    It continues to amaze me that anyone thinks patenting things that exist naturally is a good idea.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 16th, 2013 @ 7:09am

    Thanks Australia

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    Michael K. Verble, Feb 16th, 2013 @ 6:31pm

    News of Death of Judith Keep in june 2004, 9th Us District, 4th Ca. District judge

    This was my trial judge in case 04-cv 537K(JFS), her preliminary judge forfieted in April 04! The judge of jurisdiction faked her death &, split with my lawsuit money! Her pteliminary judge later tried to have me set up with said money in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with, some of Anan Kofie's gangsters handling illegal offshore US dollars while ripping off muslim community chest operations! Or,its conterfiet! Either way the Embassys Gen. Consel &, Ambassador have done nothing to examine the serial numbers of said bills since 09 when, I went out of my way to hook them up with samples asking for a personel with higher than my Secret Service with TREAS, a CIA prrsonel! They're just trying to get me killed! Now they've stold my pension money again as when I first encountered Kofies gangsters in 09! They stold my pension money from 05-10, kidnapped me ( as I've not been back to the states since May of 08)! Got stabbed in back in Hong Kong in 07, pieces of feces stold my pension money then too! A HK police passed the Chiv they stabbed me with! US: Courts stold said lawsuit money in Apellate court case 01-55852,US Suprene,, case 02-5513 &, US 9th District,Ca. 4th District, San Diego, which was so they can"t overturn the case.of the Supreme Court! Now I must sue the Attorney Gen.for failure to prosecute! B.S. runs high since my appointment to the Attorney Gen. office in 07 with my Ca. Bar! Try surviving with just the devils advocate witout millions of let alone billions of dollars in suits!...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
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    Ninja (profile), Feb 18th, 2013 @ 3:04am

    Well, that's not the first stupid thing we've seen in the IP realm. And will not be the last, unfortunately. I do think the very concept of IP needs to be abolished...

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Krishna, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:02am

    This is great!

    Well, thanks for this fantastic post which you have given here. OI really like it very much. Its really cool!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Pawan, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:04am

    Nice

    I like this post very much, Thanks for this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Setu, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:05am

    Insane

    wow, this is really just fantastic, I rally like it very much!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    UC Browser for PC, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:06am

    I like it

    I like it really very much, Thanks for this!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    WeChat for PC, Jul 24th, 2013 @ 2:09am

    Insane

    I like it!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Download Apps for PC, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 1:38am

    Nice Article

    Patent on genes? What's next, patent on fingerprints?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Samantha, Sep 20th, 2013 @ 1:39am

    Education

    Wow interesting article. I wonder how they even got this weird idea of patenting genes,

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Preet, Oct 10th, 2013 @ 11:33pm

    Good Article

    Well, thanks for this fantastic post which you have given here. OI really like it very much. Its really cool!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Preet, Nov 9th, 2013 @ 6:30am

      Re: Good Article

      So, if I find a rock in a hole, that's not patentable. But if I dig it up, put it in a box, and call it a Pet Rock, patents away!

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    kishore, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 8:26am

    whatsapp for pc

    Ah, but Myraid has claimed BRCA1 as theirs and has a patent to prove it... so people of the world, if you have a defective BRACA1 gene in your genome, you know who to sue. It is not God or you parents for making poor mate choice decision, it is Myraid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Amit, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 1:42am

    I like this post. It's really nice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Amit, Nov 5th, 2013 @ 2:07am

    nice post

    thanks for this fantastic post, i really like it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Aadhar Card Status, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 1:14am

    Genes Are a...

    So if I can patent genes & DNA does that make slavery legal in Australia as long as my slaves are made out of my own patented DNA?

    They're built out of my own property! So they should have no rights, except the right to earn me lots of hard cash through hard labor!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    happy wheels demo, Dec 11th, 2013 @ 9:04am

    happy wheels demo

    Play Free happy Wheel demo game

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Subway Surfer Game, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 2:24pm

    About Subway Surfers

    The Subway Surfers game is now available for PC also. For more info visit this site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Pramod, Dec 28th, 2013 @ 4:45am

    This is why i'm a huge fan of aussie government . They always make wise decisions just as this one .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Rohit, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 8:59am

    Court decision

    this statement of australian court opened a new field of patent. now it has to be seen how many scientists will make such patents.

     

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    monty, Jan 7th, 2014 @ 9:46am

    can any one tell how USA is talking this into consideration..? about

     

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    identicon
    Elvis, Feb 9th, 2014 @ 12:55pm

    Turntables

    This verdict has two sides.
    1. By making a gene patent-able, companies can defend their investments and thereby will invest more in development.
    2. Not everybody can work on that gene, and therefore some research will not be done.

    I'm afraid this balance lies more on the second point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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