What we invent, we have the right to patent which makes patenting one of the cornerstones of creativity, not to mention capitalism. But how does that apply to biological discoveries?
If you put in the sweat equity to isolate a gene, for example, is it yours?
On March 29, a federal judge said no, ruling that patents on two genes linked to ovarian and breast cancer BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 were illegal. Despite arguments that the very act of identifying the genes made them patentable, the judge determined that such claims of ownership were in violation of a "law of nature." Should the ruling withstand appeal, it could mean broader and cheaper access to tests that screen for the two genes, which are associated with about 10% of breast- and ovarian-cancer cases. Currently, the tests are pricey, costing up to $4,000 in the U.S.
The ruling could have implications beyond the BRCA genes, affecting patents on some 2,000 genes, or one-fifth of all human genes. The battle may not end until it reaches the Supreme Court.