US-Supreme Court prohibits patents on genes

Dipl. Biotechnol. Vanessa Bockhorni

On June 13, 2013, the Supreme Court based in Washington, USA, decided that no patents on human genes will be granted anymore. The Amercian pharma company Myriad Genetics had two breast cancer gene sequences BRCA1 and BRCA2 patented, which naturally occur in the human body. The gene BRCA1, for example, leads to an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The Supreme Court now stopped such a patenting and judged that such genes are a “product of the nature” and must therefore not be patented. It should be emphasized that this ban does not apply to artificially produced genetic material, which is still patentable.

In our view, this decision was rightly made as the mere patenting of gene sequences, that already occur in the human body does not concern an invention which should be protected in a monopoly position for a company for the term of 20 years, particularly because this would stop companies from developing and providing medicine for this gene, especially since the gene sequence can easily be detected with todays techniques and therefore only presents a mere discovery. Such a discovery would also be excluded from patenting according to the German Patent Act.


Author: Dipl. Biotechnol. Vanessa Bockhorni (Patent Attorney), Update 2/2013
Patent Attorneys and Lawyers Bockhorni & Kollegen
Munich/ Germany