Association for Molecular Pathology and ACLU v. USPTO and Myriad (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (Judge Sweet)
In a powerful move away from standard thoughts on patentability standards, the district court for the Southern District of New York has held that Myriad's patents claiming "isolated DNA" do not qualify as patentable subject matter under 35 USC 101.
The claims-in-suit directed to "isolated DNA" containing human BRCA1/2 gene sequences reflect the USPTO's practice of granting patents on DNA sequences so long as those sequences are claimed in the form of "isolated DNA." THis practice is premised on the view that DNA should be treated no differently from any other chemical compound, and that its purification from the body, using well-known techniques, renders it patentable by transforming it into something distinctly different in character. Many, however, including scientists in the field of molecular biology and genomics, have considered this practice a "lawyer's trick" that circumvents the prohibitions on the direct patenting of DNA in our bodies but which, in practice, reaches the same result. The resolution of these motions is based upon long recognized principles of molecular biology and genetics: DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information, distinct in its essential characteristics from any other chemical found in nature. It is concluded that DNA's existence in an "isolated" form alters neither this fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes. Therefore, the patents at issue directed to "isolated DNA" containing sequences found in nature are unsustainable as a matter of law and are deemed unpatentable subject matter under 35 USC 101.
Similarly, because the claimed comparisons of DNA sequences are abstract mental processes, they also constitute unpatentable subjct matter under Section 101.
This decision is the result of an action brought by a coalition of scientists and public interest groups in 2009. The group challenged Myriad's breast cancer gene patents as violating both the patent laws and the US Constitution.
The Federal Circuit is likely to reverse this decision -- opening the door to an important Supreme Court showdown.