Can Medical Facts Be Patented?
from the big-decisions dept
The current session of the Supreme Court will be deciding on some important patent-related issues. The battle between MercExchange and eBay over the ‘Buy It Now’ feature will be interesting, though equally intriguing is today’s hearing in the case of Laboratory Corp. v. Metabolite Laboratories. We wrote about this case and the broadening scope of what is patentable, yesterday, but the specifics here deserve to be reinforced. Metabolite claims a patent on the discovery of a correlation between raised levels of the chemical homocystein, and a defficiency in two B-vitamins. This is a naturally occuring phenomenon, but the company demands a royalty any time a B-vitamin defficiency is tested using this knowledge. As the court itself has put it, the case revolves around whether a company can “claim a monopoly over a basic scientific relationship used in medical treatment”. If so, we’ve noticed that legs tend to kick when a mallet hits the knee; it seems like a good way to test a patient’s reflexes. Our application is in the mail.