UPDATE 3/30 – the opinion is now available (PDF) via the ACLU (one of the plaintiffs in the case) website.
ORIGINAL POST – Earlier today a U.S. District Court judge ruled against Myriad Genetics in its defense of a lawsuit challenging the validity of its genetic patents (H/T Techdirt and Twitter). Since there are levels of appeal left in this case, do not expect to see a lot of invalidated patents just yet. Once the ruling is available online, I can link to it here. In the meantime, the key point is that the judge ruled that the patents at issue
“are directed to a law of nature and were therefore improperly granted.”
It appears that this ruling indicates that the Myriad patents went beyond the standards established in the 1980 ruling that established the validity of patenting organisms, Diamond v. Chakrabarty. So even if this ruling survives appeal (and it may go to the Supreme Court), it won’t roll back all genetically focused patents. Artificially created organisms would presumably still be patentable.
The direct motivation behind this case is two-fold: that the patents on the two breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 have restricted research on those genes, and an undue restriction of patients trying to get a second opinion on their situation. That argument will survive for what we expect to be at least one more day in court. And the line between what biological things can or cannot be patented will continue to shift.