It's been almost a year since I blogged about Judge Robert W. Sweet's ruling invalidating seven patents related to two genes (BRCA1 and BRCA2) associated with breast and ovarian cancer.

The case has been appealed, but on a quick internet search, I couldn't find any information about the appeal's status.

As I wrote last year,

The implications of the case, and of intellectual property law regarding nature (as opposed to culture), are huge. The case is certain to be appealed. Since the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, in 1980, that it is possible to patent a new living organism (for example, a genetically engineered bacterium), the defendants in the cancer-gene case have some degree of precedent on their side. On the other hand, there's arguably a difference between patenting manufactured living things and patenting the already existing natural world around and within us, such as our genes.

If anyone can find any new information or interesting perspectives on this case, leave a comment.


  1. Unknown User (jd20)

    I found a few things on this. The case went before the US Federal Court of Appeals in October, where the Obama administration supported Sweet's ruling invalidating the patents:

    "Drawing a sharp distinction between “nature’s handiwork” and human invention, the Obama Administration has urged a federal appeals court to rule that no U.S. patent can be issued to give sole rights to a natural gene taken out of the body and used for medical research.  The stance is directly contrary to long-standing government policy.  The issue almost surely is headed  ultimately to the Supreme Court."

    The Court of Appeals has not rendered a decision yet. Just yesterday, the American Medical Association sided with the administration asking the appellate court to uphold Sweet's decision. If it's bound for the Supreme Court, it will probably be years before the issue is settled. It definitely sounds like an interesting case.

  2. Unknown User (sjc2)

    I found this book in the airport on my way to Geneseo for freshman orientation.

    I really enjoyed it. It's a fictional novel that focuses on the gene patenting issue and the ownership of cell lines by research institutions. The science, and especially the genetic engineering, is highly exaggerated but it raises interesting questions and issues in an exciting and suspenseful manner.If you liked Jurassic Park you would enjoy this.