In a first of its kind ruling on human genes, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday decided that synthetically produced genetic material can be patented but naturally occurring DNA extracted from the human body cannot.
The nine justices handed a partial victory to Salt Lake City, Utah-based biotechnology company Myriad Genetics Inc, which holds the patents in question. But the rights group that challenged the patents also found reason to be pleased.The biotechnology industry had warned that an expansive ruling against Myriad could threaten billions of dollars of investment.
The biotechnology industry had warned that an expansive ruling against Myriad could threaten billions of dollars of investment.
The contentious, uniquely 21st century question before the court was whether any human genes can ever be patented – meaning the holders have exclusive rights to their intellectual property for a defined period.
The court, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas, ruled that a synthetically produced genetic material made by scientists, known as cDNA, can be patented but that genes extracted from the human body, known as isolated DNA, do not merit the same legal protections.