Supreme Court Invalidates Claims to Naturally Occurring DNA

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On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision finding that claims to naturally occurring DNA segments were invalid under the Patent Act because DNA is a product of nature and therefore not patent eligible.  Myriad, the patentee, discovered the precise location and genetic sequence of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but did not create or alter the genetic information encoded in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

The Court also ruled that a second set of claims to complementary DNA (cDNA) sequences are patent eligible because cDNA is not naturally occurring. As a result, cDNA therefore does not present the same obstacle to patentability as naturally occurring, isolated DNA segments.

The Court expressed no opinion regarding method claims, new applications of knowledge about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, or patentability of DNA in which the order of naturally occurring nucleotides has been altered, noting they are not implicated by this decision. A copy of the Supreme Court’s opinion is available here: Assoc. for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., No. 12-398.

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