from the now-go-forth-and-innovate dept
Back in 2013, the Supreme Court struck down patents that Myriad Genetics had obtained on naturally-occuring DNA sequences linked to breast cancer. As a result of that judgment, other companies started offering diagnostic tests based on the genes in question. Myriad claimed that despite losing patents on the DNA, its patents on tests based on that DNA were still valid, and took legal action to stop others from offering similar services. As we reported earlier this year, a federal district court judge refused to grant Myriad a preliminary injunction against one of those new entrants, and now the genetic testing patents have been ruled invalid, as Bloomberg reports:
Myriad Genetics Inc. (MYGN) can’t block competitors’ DNA tests to determine risk for breast and ovarian cancer after a U.S. appeals court said three patents on the tests never should have been issued.
The patents cover products of nature and ideas that aren’t eligible for legal protection, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said in an opinion posted today on the court’s docket. The court upheld a trial judge’s decision to allow the competing tests, including those made by Ambry Genetics Corp., to remain on the market.
That’s great news for women who can now choose freely from among a range of diagnostic options, often at prices substantially less than comparable testing offered by Myriad. It means that Myriad’s monopoly on data derived from those tests has been broken: thanks to its patents, it has created the world’s largest database of mutations in breast cancer genes. Most importantly, perhaps, it opens up the field of gene-based diagnostic testing to allow new entrants to experiment and innovate more freely. That, rather than granting monopolies to a few companies, is far more likely to lead to new medical breakthroughs, products and services.