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Thread: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

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    ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    Source [CNN | ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes]

    Patents on two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancers are being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union, which argues that patenting pure genes is unconstitutional and hinders research for a cancer cure.

    "Knowledge about our own bodies and the ability to make decisions about our health care are some of our most personal and fundamental rights," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "The government should not be granting private entities control over something as personal and basic to who we are as our genes."

    [...]

    Myriad and the research foundation hold patents on the pair of genes -- known as BRCA1 and BRCA2 -- that are responsible for many cases of hereditary breast and ovarian cancers.

    The ACLU contends that patenting the genes limits research and the free flow of information, and as a result violates the First Amendment. The lawsuit also challenges genetic patenting in general, noting that about 20 percent of all human genes are patented -- including genes associated with Alzheimer's disease, muscular dystrophy and asthma.

    "It is absolutely our intent that upon victory this will rend invalid patents on many other genes," said Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation and a patent law professor at Yeshiva University's Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. "We just had to pick one case as our case."

    [...]

    Myriad's patents give it exclusive right to perform diagnostic tests on the genes -- forcing other researchers to request permission from the company before they can take a look at BRCA1 and BRCA2, the ACLU said. The patents also give the company the rights to future mutations on the BRCA2 gene and the power to exclude others from providing genetic testing.

    The company also charged $3,000 a test, possibly keeping some women from seeking preventive genetic testing, the ACLU says.

    [...]

    At least one expert said the ACLU should focus more on getting the patents reversed than arguing whether they are constitutional.

    "I doubt they're going to get far with argument that the patent is unconstitutional," said Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

    "A better argument would be that they were wrong when they granted the patent," he added referring to the patent office.

    Caplan said patents are privileges, not "carved in stone." He noted that the defendants may have identified the genes, but didn't actually work on them. So, the government could reverse the patents on the genes.

    "It's like trying to patent the moon," he said. "You didn't do anything to create it, just discovered something that already existed. You can't patent things that are publicly available, that anyone can find. You have to create something, make something, do something with the thing."
    I applaud the effort, but on the whole I agree with Caplan. This isn't a first amendment issue and going about it as such seriously endangers the case. US patent law needs a whole hell of a lot of reform, particularly in the areas of genetic patents and software patents. The ACLU should directly attack the patentability of genetic sequences, as this would clearly force reform. I have a hard time seeing what the impact of a free speech ruling would be on patent law in general. Seems to me that the ruling would either be irrelevant except in and of itself, or it would have to rule that every patent violates the 1st no matter what, which is clearly undesirable. Hopefully they will amend their complaint to seek a ruling on the patentability of genetic sequences, or at the very least natural genetic sequences (as opposed to the sequences of man-made organisms such as therapeutic retroviruses).

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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    Wait a minute here. Maybe I am misunderstanding this but is that saying that companies are patenting genes that occur in humans naturally? In other words, companies are patenting things that they did not make, but that they found in us? How in the hell does that work, and is that really as unbelievably stupid as it sounds?

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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    Wait a minute here. Maybe I am misunderstanding this but is that saying that companies are patenting genes that occur in humans naturally? In other words, companies are patenting things that they did not make, but that they found in us? How in the hell does that work, and is that really as unbelievably stupid as it sounds?
    Yes, yes, and yes. For more info take a look at the Human Genome Project's page on Genetics and Patenting. It won't make you feel any better, though

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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    Quote Originally Posted by Kernel Sanders View Post
    Source [CNN | ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes]

    I applaud the effort, but on the whole I agree with Caplan. This isn't a first amendment issue and going about it as such seriously endangers the case. US patent law needs a whole hell of a lot of reform, particularly in the areas of genetic patents and software patents. The ACLU should directly attack the patentability of genetic sequences, as this would clearly force reform. I have a hard time seeing what the impact of a free speech ruling would be on patent law in general. Seems to me that the ruling would either be irrelevant except in and of itself, or it would have to rule that every patent violates the 1st no matter what, which is clearly undesirable. Hopefully they will amend their complaint to seek a ruling on the patentability of genetic sequences, or at the very least natural genetic sequences (as opposed to the sequences of man-made organisms such as therapeutic retroviruses).
    I'd love to see someone defend this.

    Its part of the complete retardation that our laws have become.


    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    Wait a minute here. Maybe I am misunderstanding this but is that saying that companies are patenting genes that occur in humans naturally? In other words, companies are patenting things that they did not make, but that they found in us? How in the hell does that work, and is that really as unbelievably stupid as it sounds?
    Originally, patent law was never intended to do this.
    Companies have lobbied congress into allowing this absurd practice.

    It is unbelievably as stupid as it sounds.
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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    Quote Originally Posted by Kernel Sanders View Post
    Yes, yes, and yes. For more info take a look at the Human Genome Project's page on Genetics and Patenting. It won't make you feel any better, though
    Absolutely unreal, just unreal.

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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    This is the kind of gross abuse of intellectual property laws that I was talking about in a debate a little while back. Corporate powers are going way too far and lack of reform is letting them get away with it. This kind of scumbag limitation on research into human health is what is holding back all kinds of progress.

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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    Quote Originally Posted by Redress View Post
    Wait a minute here. Maybe I am misunderstanding this but is that saying that companies are patenting genes that occur in humans naturally? In other words, companies are patenting things that they did not make, but that they found in us? How in the hell does that work, and is that really as unbelievably stupid as it sounds?
    You got it. The truly messed up thing is that a patent for a gene that produces an enzyme logically concludes under current patent law that everyone who produces enzymes from that gene sequence owes royalties to the gene patent holder.

    So you sitting there, without ever using a product from that company, owe them money for merely living.
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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    Quote Originally Posted by Kernel Sanders View Post
    Source [CNN | ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes]



    I applaud the effort, but on the whole I agree with Caplan. This isn't a first amendment issue and going about it as such seriously endangers the case. US patent law needs a whole hell of a lot of reform, particularly in the areas of genetic patents and software patents. The ACLU should directly attack the patentability of genetic sequences, as this would clearly force reform. I have a hard time seeing what the impact of a free speech ruling would be on patent law in general. Seems to me that the ruling would either be irrelevant except in and of itself, or it would have to rule that every patent violates the 1st no matter what, which is clearly undesirable. Hopefully they will amend their complaint to seek a ruling on the patentability of genetic sequences, or at the very least natural genetic sequences (as opposed to the sequences of man-made organisms such as therapeutic retroviruses).
    How can someone be granted a patent on something they didn't invent? If anyone should have patent rights it ought to be God. This is total bull****. If a company invented a cancer gene, then they invented cancer and ought to be sued to hell for it.
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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    That is stupid patenting something you didn't create. Looks like an abuse of patent laws. Who knows what research these douches are hindering because of this stupidity. They didn't create the genes so they should have no right to patent, it would be like me putting a patent Tashah's legs.
    "A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murder is less to fear"

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    Count Smackula
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    Re: ACLU sues over patents on breast cancer genes

    My secret plan to get rich is to patent a virus, infect people with it, and sue everyone for making copies when the virus uses their body to make copies of itself.

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