Suit Challenges Patenting of Cancer Genes

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2009 2:39 PM CDT
Samples.   (AP Photo)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – A group of breast cancer and ovarian cancer patients has filed suit against the Patent Office for allowing a company to patent two human genes, the Courthouse News Service reports. The plaintiffs, who also include medical organizations and the ACLU, allege that Myriad Genetics' patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes mean women are unlawfully "prevented from obtaining information about their health risks from anyone other than the patent holder."

“The patenting of human genes,” the complaint reads, “violates long established legal principles that prohibit the patenting of laws of nature, products of nature, and abstract ideas.” The plaintiffs argue that Myriad’s monopoly artificially inflates test prices and makes a second opinion impossible, the New York Times reports. “With a sole provider, there’s mediocrity,” one said. The ACLU was harsher: “What they have really patented is knowledge,” said a staff lawyer.