We've been covering the legal fight over the patenting of genes for quite some time, and there's been an interesting (if odd) development, concerning the BRCA patents, held by Myriad Genetics, that have been the key patents in the legal battle. Back in March, a district court judge famously held that genes were unpatentable
, and said that the BRCA patents (covering genes related to breast cancer) were invalid. A few months later, it was interesting to see a very similar case filed in Australia
, also against Myrida and over BRCA patents.
However, as Glyn Moody
alerts us, there's been a slightly surprising development down in Australia, as Myriad has offered to surrender the patent to the people of Australia
. Specifically, Myriad sent a letter, stating:
"Myriad wishes to gift Australian Patent No 686004 [the '004 Patent] to the people of Australia."
This is, certainly, an odd turn of events, and no one's quite sure why. Some have suggested that it's to help with the US case by avoiding another ruling against such patents in Australia -- but as the article notes, that makes little sense. The patent systems are different in the US and Australia and have little, if any, impact on one another. My guess (and it's a guess) is that Myriad realized that this one particular patent is weak, and doesn't want it to be a part of any lawsuit that could impact its other patents or the wider ability to patent genes, and is thus offering it up to get it out of the lawsuit. That's an admittedly cynical take, but I'm having trouble coming up with other possibilities that make sense. Perhaps any readers more familiar with the Australian patent system can fill us in on why they think this is happening.