Isolated human genes and related therapeutic treatment methods held patent-eligible
Patents on isolated genes are big business. In the past three decades, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued over 2500 patents claiming isolated DNA, and 40000 DNA-related patents in non-native form, for genes in the human genome. Thus in 2010, when a US district court judge found claims to isolated DNA and related method claims patent-ineligible, the industry was shocked and mobilized to respond: see Ass'n for Molecular Pathology v US Patent & Trademark Office, 702 F Supp 2d 181, 220–37 (SDNY 2010) (‘Myriad I'). At first, on appeal, the majority of a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed the district court decision and found all of the composition claims, as well as one method claim directed to screening potential cancer therapies based upon changes in the growth rates of transformed cells, patent-eligible: Ass'n for Molecular Pathology v US Patent & Trademark Office, 653 F 3d 1329 (Fed Cir 2011) (‘Myriad II'). This result was short-lived: the US Supreme Court, in Mayo Collaborative Services v Prometheus Laboratories, Inc, 132 S Ct 1289 (2012) (‘Mayo'), granted certiorari, vacated Myriad II and remanded for further consideration in view of Mayo. Ass'n for Molecular Pathology v Myriad Genetics, Inc, 132 S Ct 1794 (2012) (‘Myriad III'). This past August, in Myriad IV, the Federal Circuit, on remand, quickly set a new briefing schedule to address the impact of Mayo on its prior Myriad II decision, held oral argument, and then the same panellists reissued a substantively similar decision. While each of the panellists considered Mayo, it had little impact on their ultimate conclusions as to whether isolated DNA claims and related method claims were patent-eligible.