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Will the Supreme Court End Human Gene Patents?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the own-yourself dept.

The Courts 228

An anonymous reader writes "Monday, the Supreme Court will hear a case on the validity of breast cancer gene patents. The court has a chance to end human gene patents after three decades. From the article: 'Since the 1980s, patent lawyers have been claiming pieces of humanity's genetic code. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted thousands of gene patents. The Federal Circuit, the court that hears all patent appeals, has consistently ruled such patents are legal. But the judicial winds have been shifting. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the legality of gene patents. And recently, the Supreme Court has grown increasingly skeptical of the Federal Circuit's patent-friendly jurisprudence. Meanwhile, a growing number of researchers, health care providers, and public interest groups have raised concerns about the harms of gene patents. The American Civil Liberties Union estimates that more than 40 percent of genes are now patented. Those patents have created "patent thickets" that make it difficult for scientists to do genetic research and commercialize their results. Monopolies on genetic testing have raised prices and reduced patient options.'"

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228 comments

The government doing something right? (4, Insightful)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#43448091)

Come on... seriously now...

No.

Re:The government doing something right? (3, Interesting)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43448119)

I don't have high expectations for any institution that's over 10% Scalia, but once in a while the government does manage to do the right thing, at least for the wrong reasons.

Re:The government doing something right? (1)

rainmouse (1784278) | about a year ago | (#43448387)

I don't have high expectations for any institution that's over 10% Scalia, but once in a while the government does manage to do the right thing, at least for the wrong reasons.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtRlkEI8SV4 [youtube.com]

Natural vs artificial (5, Insightful)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year ago | (#43448151)

I believe that, if the "human gene" occurs naturally, that is, already existed before being discovered, they should not be patentable --- something akin to "prior art"

But on the other hand, if the "human gene" is has a new sequence, result of some artificial manipulation in some lab, and has special characteristics, then I think it would be unfair to prohibit those who have invested their time and effort in creating something that has never existed before in patenting the new genetic sequence(s)

Re:Natural vs artificial (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448225)

Intellectual property is a lie. "Discoveries" like this can be "rediscovered" an infinite number of times, but the first dick to the prize gets to monopolize potentially life-saving information? No. They don't. The internet has made intellectual property a thing of the past.

Re:Natural vs artificial (2)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about a year ago | (#43448233)

The internet has made intellectual property a thing of the past.

Talk like that will do nothing good for the internet.

Re:Natural vs artificial (5, Insightful)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#43448229)

And what happens that that gene is later found to exist somewhere in nature?

What about those "artificial" genes made in labs that make their way into organisms through 100% natural methods? Should some biotechnology company "own" all of our rice just because some farmer decided to use their seeds, and their crops then crossed with, thereby contaminating all nearby farmers' rice crops?

And it takes a virus or bacterium to transfer the gene into a plant... should humans really receive the patent for doing something that a lowly microorganism does itself?

Patenting living things is just a bad idea. Period.

Re:Natural vs artificial (5, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43448881)

Worse yet, (and bringing the discussion back home to humans), could a human be charged a license fee for reproducing (having children) simply because they paid for a medical treatment that involved gene therapy which becomes part of their DNA?

Its time to end this silliness before it becomes a pervasive a cell phone patents and software patents. If doing so turns off all research into genetic medicine so be it. (It won't, but that's what the drug companies will claim, and its long past time to call their bluff). Someone else will step up and provide it on more agreeable terms.

Re:Natural vs artificial (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#43449387)

Now that is truly a sickening thought, and one I didn't even think of. Yikes. Now that would be bad.

Re:Natural vs artificial (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about a year ago | (#43449073)

And what happens that that gene is later found to exist somewhere in nature?

That's fairly unlikely, especially if it is existing in the patented organism.

Should some biotechnology company "own" all of our rice just because some farmer decided to use their seeds, and their crops then crossed with, thereby contaminating all nearby farmers' rice crops?

Certainty not.

And it takes a virus or bacterium to transfer the gene into a plant... should humans really receive the patent for doing something that a lowly microorganism does itself?

I'm not sure I follow why that matters. In the end all inventions are just a more precise manipulation of natural forces.

Patenting living things is just a bad idea. Period.

Why? If you don't like patented organisms, you don't have to use them. Me, some of my favorite things exist because of patents, and humanity has gotten some great stuff out of patented organisms that in all likelihood would not exist if they could simply be reproduced.

Re:Natural vs artificial (2, Interesting)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#43449461)

Why? If you don't like patented organisms, you don't have to use them. Me, some of my favorite things exist because of patents, and humanity has gotten some great stuff out of patented organisms that in all likelihood would not exist if they could simply be reproduced.

What happens when a genetically-modified crop is so widely grown that it has spread its destructive, patented genes to all other nearby "non-GMO" crops? Does that mean that I need to avoid all products containing even a trace amount of that crop, because either I can't trust it to be non-GMO or even know for sure that there's a 99% chance that all of that crop IS GMO? Take corn for example... good luck finding even an ear of corn that hasn't been genetically borked, let alone a bottle of whiskey or cornbread or ever tortilla chips! Oh, does your loaf of bread or your ketchup or fruit punch have high-fructose corn syrup? Better put that down--it's contaminated. In this case, those people living in countries other than the U.S. at least have lower GMO usage by farmers overall. Of course, I don't live in one of those countries.

Soy is another one--I don't eat soy personally (at least not by choice...), but I swear you can hardly find anything in stores that doesn't have that damn thing listed as an ingredient. And, of course, the good ol' government doesn't think it's in our best interests to know that a food product on the shelves contains GMO ingredients, so it's usually not exactly easy to figure out. But by just eliminating anything that contain the big two--corn and soy based products--you'll end up with the problem of being unable to buy anything to eat. So much for choice.

Re:Natural vs artificial (4, Interesting)

jelizondo (183861) | about a year ago | (#43449497)

Please, take a moment to think.

Shall we grant ownership of asteroids, planets and other celestial objects to the astronomer who discovers them?

If not, why should other natural objects be treated differently?

If you are talking about patentig a sequencing method or a method to change a natural gene, then, by all means, grant a patent. Otherwise, forget it.

And then we have to deal with unintended consequences... What if the changed gene has deadly side-effects?

The corporations want the government to assure them their profits, but they don't want to take the risk [snopes.com] .

Maybe we should not grant genetic patents at all?

Re:Natural vs artificial (3, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#43448265)

It isn't about being fair. It is about what produces the best result for society as a whole.

Re:Natural vs artificial (4, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about a year ago | (#43448541)

It isn't about being fair. It is about what produces the best result for society as a whole.

No it's not. It's about appeasing the lobby group with the biggest legal fund. So even if the Supreme Court did happen to strike down gene patents (which I believe unlikely), there's no reason why those interest groups wouldn't just lobby Congress to get the law changed in their favour. I would guess they would have a high likelihood of success there, given that all politicians are corrupt.

The definition of insanity (2)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#43448911)

While I don't disagree with your point, it is a secondary issue. Correctable when people stop voting for career politicians and start voting in functional members of society. As Socrates stated, "the only people that should be representing people in the Republic are those that don't wish to be in politics.

Yeah yeah, not likely any time soon but if enough people spread the message it can and will happen.

Re:Natural vs artificial (1)

erroneus (253617) | about a year ago | (#43448947)

Excellent point. And since these patents are used to concentrate wealth, something which has *ALWAYS* been bad for society as a whole, then we are in agreement.

Re:Natural vs artificial (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#43449371)

I don't know if we are in agreement. Sure patents concentrate wealth, but they also provide motivation. The world isn't black and white, you have to try to figure out the net result to decide what is best for society.

Re:Natural vs artificial (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448281)

There is nothing new under the sun. Life is but evolutionary mathematics and should not even be considered patentable.

Re:Natural vs artificial (1)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about a year ago | (#43448333)

There are some serious gaps in patent law.
One of them is the cause of a case which the Supreme Court has heard, but hasn't ruled yet. Monsanto vs [I can't recall] for the Round up resistant soybeans. If something can replicate/reproduce naturally it can't be patented.
Sadly the Federal Appeals courts have been more than a bit ignorant in their rulings. But then most of them have never taken any science after high school. Forget jury trials, you don't have to have graduated HS to serve on a jury.
With a couple notable exceptions, the current court seems to be able to grasp (read their staff briefs them well) advanced concepts.
I believe there is hope.

Re:Natural vs artificial (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43448701)

Human genes as they occur naturally are not patentable.

It is only after they are isolated and a use is found for them in the isolated form that they become patentable.

This exactly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448719)

This exactly. The genes aren't patented. Doing something novel with them is what's being patented. These patents are truly the only thing that allows the scientists doing the research to monetize the results. That, in turn, has substantially increased the number of folks doing research and publishing that said research. Without the forced publication of patents, a lot of this research will be locked away in corporate black boxes that are treated as trade secrets.
Wile the patents system has flaws, doing nothing would be much worse.

Re:This exactly (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448841)

No, they are not patenting doing "somthing" with a gene but doing *anything* with a gene so long as it is linked to a certain disease eg cancer.
That is the problem!
If it was just a single specific diagnosis or treatment or a new modified version no one would care.

Re:This exactly (1)

Y-Crate (540566) | about a year ago | (#43449183)

This exactly. The genes aren't patented. Doing something novel with them is what's being patented. These patents are truly the only thing that allows the scientists doing the research to monetize the results. That, in turn, has substantially increased the number of folks doing research and publishing that said research. Without the forced publication of patents, a lot of this research will be locked away in corporate black boxes that are treated as trade secrets.
Wile the patents system has flaws, doing nothing would be much worse.

Sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree here.

Monetize a specific treatment, don't monetize the idea of treatment - it's incredibly unethical and immoral.

isolation defines nothing new (1)

noshellswill (598066) | about a year ago | (#43448805)

An isolated gene is no more **new** than the number "5" removed from the sequence 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 .... and because the number "5" may properly count how often you picked-yo-nose this minute contributes nothing to its uniqueness or novelty.

Re:Natural vs artificial (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448813)

Yes but isolated form means PCR, a reaction for copying up stretches of DNA which is so trivial a procedure in modern science that you are starting to get home kits for it, and used for almost every diagnosis and investigative method. Then because of this something novel means "any diagnosis based on this gene for X disease under Y circumstances ". The current system is allowing the patenting of any standard means of checking a known location with standard methods for a specific disease, where the linking of the location of the gene to the disease is the "inovation", discovery is not innovation. There have been several multinational government consortium doing this sort of linkage who have later re-found such links.

Even if you are doing something different than the company that (often speculatively) patented the gene it still covers you because everything and anything you do will need PCR, so if you have a new idea for such a gene you would be better of if the original company had missed the link. how does this help innovation? it actively stifles research into any gene already patented.

Re:Natural vs artificial (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about a year ago | (#43448787)

I don't think the second case qualifies as human gene.

Re:Natural vs artificial (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449077)

Pretty soon none of this will matter anyway because Medusa is a bit on the upset side. When Medusa isn't happy you know it's about to get real. She's going to be gazing... gazing and turning humans into stone and using their statues as archery practice. You don't have DNA when you're turned to stone. The future is bleak if you're not Medusa or blind.

Re:Natural vs artificial (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449495)

Could always patent the way to create that gene instead of the gene itself. You can't patent Hydrogen, but if you have a new, more efficient way of producing it, you can patent that.

Re:The government doing something right? (4, Insightful)

hsmith (818216) | about a year ago | (#43448217)

God forbid Congress and the President do something about it. No, lets hope the Supreme Court, nine old people, figure it out.

Patenting genes, which aren't fucking inventions - is purely insane.

Re:The government doing something right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448329)

Eh, they'll probably just rule it legal anyway in order to set a nice profitable precedent.

Re:The government doing something right? (1)

TrollstonButtersbean (2890693) | about a year ago | (#43448779)

In 12 years or so, it will hard to take any ruling on human genome with a straight face as we will have ability to model it and work with it on our own computers in the near future. As a result I am largely uninterested in what the court decides. Law has to bow to the irresistible gravity of new informational norms. When those changes, it is up to our formal institutions to adapt.

We need COMMUNISM! (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#43448097)

Only workers soviets can sort this mess out fairly. Laura and I agree, and so do you!

Re:We need COMMUNISM! (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about a year ago | (#43448883)

I dunno, but more and more I'd prefer the bumbling, inefficient and somewhat foolish attempt at controlling their subject's life to our highly efficient, market driven efforts.

I don't know the answer. (5, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43448103)

Is figuring out what constitutes a gene for something really the Herculean effort (deserving of patent protection) it used to be?

Or is it more like the Oklahoma Land Grab at this point?

Re:I don't know the answer. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448313)

Is figuring out what constitutes a gene for something really the Herculean effort (deserving of patent protection) it used to be?

Did Einstein patent the Theory of Relativity?

Did Linus Pauling patent the Nature of the Chemical Bond?

Does any astronomer who discovers a planet patent it?

If I could dig a ditch from NY to LA. Should I get a patent on that ditch? After all, it would be a Herculean effort.

Re:I don't know the answer. (1)

dwye (1127395) | about a year ago | (#43449271)

If I could dig a ditch from NY to LA. Should I get a patent on that ditch?

No, because there is prior art going back at least as far as the Roman Empire (assuming that you are smart enough to then fill the ditch with water).

OTOH, you have the right to charge tolls on it (assuming that you got the rights of way, first -- otherwise you get the right to a small cell in a big pen), and these tolls are what encourage people to build them. Well, mostly encouraged them, since canals aren't that easy to build in new places, anymore. The canal between the Rhine and the Danube doesn't count since that has been in and out of existence since the Late Roman Empire.

Re:I don't know the answer. (4, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#43448739)

Is figuring out what constitutes a gene for something really the Herculean effort (deserving of patent protection) it used to be?

As AC pointed out, "Herculean effort" is not necessarily deserving of patent protection. That being said, yes, figuring out what constitutes "the gene for X" (which for the vast majority of diseases is actually more like "the N genes and assorted epigenetic modifications for X," where N is some fairly large number) is still in most cases a task which would challenge even a demigod. Since those of us working in the fields aren't demigods, we have to rely on a whole lot of skull sweat and processor cycles. It still doesn't mean we should get to patent what we discover through this process, for the simple reason that they are discoveries rather than inventions.

questionable claim (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448117)

Is this bit from the summary actually true? Anyone have any evidence to support it?

And recently, the Supreme Court has grown increasingly skeptical of the Federal Circuit's patent-friendly jurisprudence.

Points at Supreme Court (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448123)

Hideki!

Re:Points at Supreme Court (0)

hendrikboom (1001110) | about a year ago | (#43448901)

Chi?

This will get struck down (3, Interesting)

BTWR (540147) | about a year ago | (#43448127)

The masses don't know about this story yet. Once the Gay Marriage debate dies down a bit (or once the decision is released) and this becomes the next big court case, you will see overwhelming popular support for eliminating gene patents.

Then again, I supposed Citizens United is very unpopular too, and that seems to have passed...

Re:This will get struck down (4, Interesting)

chromaexcursion (2047080) | about a year ago | (#43448485)

Good point, but very different constitutional foundations.
The same reason the court ruled in favor of Citizens United is why they rule against gene patents.

On a more favorable front. The SEC is likely to require all publicly traded corps to publish their political activities.
Most companies fear public backlash more than their non-favored candidate in office.

Re:This will get struck down (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449011)

The niggers will vote for slavery. They always do. They vote democrat whom in turn vote for this elitists Jew shit!

Re:This will get struck down (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449101)

Good to see comments like this on Slashdot. I'd mod this up, if I could.

Doubtful (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about a year ago | (#43449267)

Americans side with property, and this is IP (Intellectual Property).

Genuine question (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448133)

Genuine question: how does someone researching gene therapies then commercialize their research without patents; what is the process? I agree with the ethics of not having patents on the human genome, but then what is the process a genetic researcher would then use to turn their research into a product and bring it to market; what's the incentive for a genetic researcher to research new therapies? It seems to me this is expensive and complicated, so there should be some incentive or payoff for the time and money invested. Just curious.

Re:Genuine question (0)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#43448235)

DISCOVERING what a gene sequence is for isn't an INVENTION, therefore not patentable - under the OLD RULES. They had to REWRITE THE RULES to allow this shit.

Growing a human ear on the spine of a mouse isn't an invention, it's a crime against Nature, one using a genetic sequence that wasn't INVENTED but DISCOVERED: the sequence that instructs stem cells to grow in the shape of an ear.

Using pigs to produce human insulin isn't an INVENTION, it's the result of a process of DISCOVERY that a sequence we ALL CARRY can be transplanted into a pig embryo to make it produce huge quantities of a hormone that's useless to pigs but essential for the survival of people who wouldn't need it if they ate proper food (I can cite a source: a friend who was on 140mg insulin a day in the UK moved to Spain and went on a prepackaged-free diet. I mean, everything. Her insulin use went to ZERO within six weeks, she still lives in Spain and she is still off the insulin because she is eating PROPERLY).

Please Don't tar all diabetics with the same brush (1)

StueyNZ (2657297) | about a year ago | (#43448733)

Not all people with diabetes have Type 2 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diabetes_mellitus_type_1 [wikipedia.org]

Re:Please Don't tar all diabetics with the same br (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#43448893)

I am perfectly well aware of this, several members of my family, myself included, are type 1 or type 2 (I am type 2)

Re: Genuine question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448793)

You do realize, don't you, that some people are insulin dependent diabetics for reason other than diet? Surely you're not THAT ignorant? I know this is slashdot , and let's not stop a good rant because of facts or anything, but one antecdote does not data make. Oh, and that recombinant human insulin you were dismissing, does not occur in nature. It is similar, but not identical.

Re: Genuine question (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#43448871)

...and I should pay any mind to an AC who cannot spell "ANECDOTE" why?

Fuck off.

Re: Genuine question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448939)

ugh- worst person to have on my side sorry for his ignorant anti-scince rant

The big problem with gene patents is that they don't cover just specific artificially created gene variants (like pig production of insulin) but any copy of a naturally occurring region of the human genome, so long as it is isolated when used to treat or diagnose a specific disease. In order to do anything research or diagnosis-wise to a sequence you need to do this, usually through PCR. Because of this such patents mean that to do new research on a patented gene you need the permission of the patent holder,(why should they say yes?) and will often have to pay them for their licence when it comes to using your treatment (if they decide to give you one) even if your methodology is different and your discovery has nothing to do with them.

Re:Genuine question (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#43449253)

You lost all credibility with the phrase "crime against Nature".

Re:Genuine question (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#43448483)

The profit presumably comes from the therapies developed with this knowledge, just like in other fields of inquiry. Just because the discoverers of electrons or photons couldn't patent electrons and photons didn't mean novel inventions couldn't be built with the newfound insights.

Re:Genuine question (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#43449269)

Therapies that anyone else can provide at lower cost because they don't need to pay back the money it cost to do the research?

Re:Genuine question (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | about a year ago | (#43449333)

Just knowing what a gene does no more automatically guarantees one can develop a therapy than identifying an electron confers the ability to build a battery.

If you didn't invent the gene and its function, you should have no more right to patent it than Hubble did the expansion of the universe. They are discoveries, not inventions, and if that makes monetizing them difficult, then tough.

Re:Genuine question (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year ago | (#43449435)

So chemical patents should be thrown out too? Because X + Y = Z is a discovery not an invention.

Re:Genuine question (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449109)

They should give the drugs away for free and then make money off of tech support calls.

The purpose of a gene is a discovery (4, Insightful)

PerformanceDude (1798324) | about a year ago | (#43448135)

I never understood how they could allow this to happen in the first place. Clearly finding out the purpose of a gene will always be a discovery and not an invention. Discoveries are not patentable.

Re:The purpose of a gene is a discovery (1)

UltraZelda64 (2309504) | about a year ago | (#43448161)

They are in this fucked up country...

Re:The purpose of a gene is a discovery (1)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#43448253)

they had to rewrite the admissibility rules to allow this shit, that's what happened.

Re:The purpose of a gene is a discovery (3, Informative)

Grond (15515) | about a year ago | (#43448399)

Clearly finding out the purpose of a gene will always be a discovery and not an invention. Discoveries are not patentable.

"The term “invention” means invention or discovery." 35 U.S.C. 100(a) [cornell.edu] . You can argue that this is not what the law should be, but this has been the law in the United States since at least 1952.

Re:The purpose of a gene is a discovery (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43448677)

Probably much further.

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Patent Validity (3, Insightful)

mephox (1462813) | about a year ago | (#43448137)

It would be nice to see a Human Health and Well-Being clause for patents of things like this, shortening (though not eliminating) the monopolistic period during which companies can claim sole profits on a product which could save lives. With a stringent set of rules, of course such as providing that the patent actually includes something that cures or treats a disease/condition that is life threatening and thus shortening the road to genericness.

They shouldn't. (5, Insightful)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about a year ago | (#43448143)

I think we should be able to patent similar sized sections of machine code as well.

This shit will never get better until it gets SO BAD that not even the rich greedy monopolies can make money. THEN we can fix the situation and end all patents (and copyrights too).

Life is copying. You are trillions of copies of a single cell. We owe the entire advancement of the Human race to our ability to freely share ideas -- It's the only thing we have over the damn dirty apes, and we're squandering it for greed...

Re:They shouldn't. (2)

shentino (1139071) | about a year ago | (#43448847)

The rich greedy monopolies are the ones having their lobbyists write the rules.

They're not going to shoot themselves in the foot, and they aren't going to let their political pets do so either.

The law has always and always will mean whatever the elite damn well say it does.

Where does the nonsense end? (1)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about a year ago | (#43448173)

What value on human life? At what point does money become secondary to life?

Money is just perception and power, if human health can't be exempt from the pull of money then what can be exempt? The health of the environment has become secondary to calculating who owns it, and now human health is directly subordinate to ownership and control. At what stage in human evolution do people with common sense stop and say "If we don't stop behaving like crazy people, we're going to become extinct".

Because that's where this ends.

Re:Where does the nonsense end? (1)

ancientt (569920) | about a year ago | (#43449017)

I didn't really think I had decided where I stood on this issue until I read that. Thanks, now I know.

Money isn't just perception and power, it is a method of measuring the value of goods and services for the purpose of exchange. It seems almost stupid to have to say it, but it's the overlooked point here.

The absuridity that medicine and by extension human health shouldn't have a monetary value should be obvious to anyone. To say anything else is to say that doctors and researchers should either not exist beyond voluntary efforts. Do you honestly think that you should be able to get treatment for anything at no cost to you regardless of the cost to the people who provide it? Do you honestly think there should be no monetary incentives to learn to practice and regulate medical practice? Do you honestly believe there world would be a better place if nobody was allowed to profit from researching how to produce better medicine?

I want to live in a society where I and those I love can get treatment for illness that is expensive to provide. There would be far fewer options and far less general wellness if there were no monetary incentive to provide it. I might have a genetic time bomb ticking away in me right now that will either kill me, drastically reducing my ability to contribute to society, or be cured depending entirely on who has incentive to find a cure. If you successfully kill the incentive for the research necessary, then you're partially responsible for killing me.

Now it might be that the medicine necessary to cure my genetic time bomb would be so expensive to research and produce that I'd die for my inability to pay for it, but the other scenario is that I'd have no chance at all. Maybe it's not an all or nothing choice. Maybe the incentives are weighted to high and we should have better laws to balance the incentives for medical research, study and medicine production. Maybe it's common sense to consider how to best regulate that balance.

To say "human health can't be exempt from the pull of money" is to say that no amount of research or practice is worth paying for and it is better to let people die than to place value on that work.

Because that's where this ends.

Intentional nonsense? (1)

ancientt (569920) | about a year ago | (#43449137)

Oops, I wrote "should either not exist beyond voluntary efforts." when I should have written "should either not exist beyond voluntary efforts, or be compelled against their will."

I've been bothered by a theory lately that some people, politicians in particular, may be manipulating public perception. What if there are people who recognize that a position is popular that they disagree with for really good reasons and act like they're in favor of the position with the intention to deliberately lose the public debates on the topic? My post above would be an example of me falling for such misdirection. What if "OhANameWhatName" and I were on opposite sides of the debate on whether genetic patents should be allowed. I was against them when I started reading but when I thought though his/her argument, I changed my mind because it became obvious to me how flawed the argument against them was. Now I'm in favor of regulated allowance for genetic patents and have made an argument in favor of them despite my initial contrary stance.

The same thing has happened to me on the subjects of AGW (initially against, but flawed arguments have been so effectively discredited that I'm now in favor of the theory) and gun control (initially I tended toward reasonable additional controls but all the misdirection to assualt wheapons and overreaching regulation moved me against it) and texting bans (initially I thought they were reasonable but all the research and bad arguments in favor combined with studies showing their failures shifted me against them.)

My firm belief is that a person should be willing to consider arguments for and against any subject rationally and change their opinions when they learn more if the evidence is sufficient. However, I'm inclined to read and think through the arguments that agree with my opinions first and that makes me subject to manipulation if the arguments that seem to favor my opinion are consistently flawed.

What bothers me is, what if the people who are making arguments that are flawed are only pretending to agree with my initial opinion but making arguments that are intentionally flawed?

Monsanto? (3, Interesting)

grilled-cheese (889107) | about a year ago | (#43448191)

If they were to rule out gene patents in humans, I wonder what that would do to Monsanto and the rest of the GMO industry?

Re:Monsanto? (1)

Seraphim_72 (622457) | about a year ago | (#43448371)

Douse them in legal Roundup?

Re:Monsanto? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43448669)

Um the genes the Monsanto has patented are not naturally occurring.

Re:Monsanto? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448775)

Thats not true, the genes they use are naturally occurring, just not in the organisms that they use them in.

Re:Monsanto? (1)

bitslinger_42 (598584) | about a year ago | (#43448879)

Conversely, if they uphold human gene patents here AND grant Monsanto the win in their GMO case (looking into whether naturally-occurring offspring of parents with patented genese are unauthorized derivative works, and therefore violate the patent-holder's rights) would that mean that people could no longer reproduce legally in this country?

Re:Monsanto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449043)

That's right. Then a gene therapy bomb will be exploded over all major US cities. Soon, we will have fruits and vegetables growing off our arms and legs. We will also have the ability to feed of sunlight. But since you can now eat your own food, you will have to pay a royalty just to say alive. Because Monsanto and the military complex own the patents. That's right bitch!! They own your ass, and your fruits and veggies too!

Re:Monsanto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449055)

Life becomes sane when you accept the insanity. -Anon

Re:Monsanto? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449091)

Quit misquoting me!

Short answer: No (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448197)

Long answer: Hell no.

Wrong approach (2)

guspasho (941623) | about a year ago | (#43448199)

All the arguments in the summary are economic ones. Creating monopolies, raising prices, and market distortions are what patents are for. It's a reward to the creator that is supposed to drive creativity and innovation.

The real argument against gene patents is that they shouldn't be patentable in the first place. They are natural phenomena, not inventions.

Re:Wrong approach (3, Interesting)

meta-monkey (321000) | about a year ago | (#43448261)

Natural phenomena? Wrong argument, lefty. Our genes were wholly Created six thousand years ago by Our Lord in the image of His Holy Sequences. Hence, no human can claim invention on a gene in the face of Divine Prior Art.

Re:Wrong approach (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43448661)

What is patented is the isolated gene, which is not a natural product.

Every patented composition is in fact a transformation of naturally occurring substances. The so-called gene patents are no exception.

The test (5, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | about a year ago | (#43448205)

IMO, all of the comments and discussion about whether genes are inventions or discoveries or natural or artificial are completely irrelevant.

The purpose of the patent system is to advance the useful arts and sciences. Given that there is obviously a lot of scientific (and commercial) value in identifying the functions of particular parts of our genetic code, that's something we want to encourage. Patents are supposed to do this by encouraging research results to be published so that other researchers can use them for inspiration and as building blocks. If that's not happening, then patents aren't providing any value.

So, a very simple test: If researchers routinely use the patent database as a source of inspiration and a place to find tools to solve specific problems, and are very willing to look for and license patents that help them make progress, then they're good and useful. If, however, patents are an obstruction, if researchers actively avoid looking at patents to avoid possible treble damages from willful infringement, or if they block useful avenues of research, then they're not providing any value and should be discarded.

The question of whether something is invented or discovered is just semantics with no real impact on whether or not it's useful or whether or not patent protection will accelerate or slow progress in the field.

Re:The test (2)

mkiwi (585287) | about a year ago | (#43448373)

So, a very simple test: If researchers routinely use the patent database as a source of inspiration and a place to find tools to solve specific problems, and are very willing to look for and license patents that help them make progress, then they're good and useful. If, however, patents are an obstruction, if researchers actively avoid looking at patents to avoid possible treble damages from willful infringement, or if they block useful avenues of research, then they're not providing any value and should be discarded.

I think regulated FRAND patents would be necessary if you had any patents on genes at all. Unfortunately, that means there will be special interest groups that will try to carve exceptions in to the regulations (and the laws supporting them). However, managed properly, FRAND could work for genes that are deemed patentable because the government can make sure the barrier to entry is low enough so that there's no Apple/Samsung/Motorola crap going on.

Re:The test (1)

mkiwi (585287) | about a year ago | (#43448403)

One international body overseeing the biggest markets would probably help, too.

Re:The test (1)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#43448427)

That's nice, but you should probably give that speech to Congress not the Supreme Court. The court only cares if Congress stays within their constitutionally granted power, not if they're doing it smart or even right. After all it's not hard to argue that since patents are valuable it is incentive to create patentable inventions. It might not work that well in practice but the Supreme Court isn't going to overrule Congress on a thing like that.

Re:The test (3, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#43449421)

The question of whether something is invented or discovered is just semantics with no real impact on whether or not it's useful or whether or not patent protection will accelerate or slow progress in the field.

Perhaps not the field per se, but if patents were granted for mere discoveries instead of inventions, then society itself will fall apart. Do we owe Higgs royalties for "discovering" the Higgs Boson? Or perhaps we owe them to CERN, whose LHC actually did the discovering?

Patenting discoveries does not lead to the promotion of the useful arts and sciences in any situation. Instead, it leads to extreme corporatism.

I have a question (3, Funny)

Tastecicles (1153671) | about a year ago | (#43448211)

If 96% of all human DNA is considered "junk" (as was the claim sometime in or around 2004), why the rush to claim it? In the interests of rampant capitalism? And why the reversal of that claim in 2011?

Fuck you, you go play your own games, I'm taking my marbles and going home. When the rivers are dry, the trees are dead and the animals starving, the fields fallow and the supermarkets empty, the skies empty and the oceans sterile; then perhaps you'll realise that YOU CAN'T EAT MONEY. Go do something fucking useful like plant some fucking potatoes. DO SOMETHING USEFUL FOR THE GOOD OF HUMANITY OR GET THE FUCK OFF MY PLANET.

Still here. (1)

ancientt (569920) | about a year ago | (#43449307)

I'm still here. It's my planet too.

When they stop paying me for going to work I'll find a new job. That's capitalism. (So is doing genetic research necessary to provide better medicine.) Even if the grocery store, mortgage company, utilities companies and Wal-Marts said "take what you need" I'd still find a new job. I'd prefer to work at a Waffle House because I'd enjoy it more and it's frankly easier work. Capitalism doesn't mean that I wouldn't work at all without it, it just means that I do what's more valuable to society with my talents than I'd do without money as an incentive. Plus, I like the option to do what I choose rather than being subject to being told what I must do.

I'm fully capable of planting potatoes (and many other things) since I grew up farming. I don't spend my days doing it because what I contribute doing my job has a much higher value to society. As a result of people like me making the choices that capitalism drives, you and I both live better lives than we would without those incentives.

That doesn't mean I'm incapable of making moral choices on how I spend my efforts. There are much more lucrative options I'm capable of pursuing but choose not to because of my morals. I don't eat money but I eat the things money buys. I recycle but I don't bicycle 30 miles to work because my options in a capitalism driven society make that the more moral choice for me and my family.

(I too have a Caps Lock key.) LEARN TO THINK.

Capitalism isn't inherently evil nor is socialism or pretty any economic system you prefer to name. Evil or just malicious ignorance is common in humankind. Some economic systems make it easier for those bad tendencies in people to have more significant impacts. I'm actually going to agree with you in believing that we should all be subject to a truely enlightened form of governance where our economic contribution is governed by what is actually best for us each and all. When such a thing happens I believe we'll both be better people doing what is best. However, short of the world governance by God himself, I'm stuck in a world where there is nobody I trust to have such power and insight. For now, I believe that the evil of regulated capitalism in a democratic republic is the least evil of options available.

Do you believe there is a better option? Lay off the caps and explain your reasoning because capital letters don't convince me, they just motivate me to argue.

more trivia (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448269)

will Justin Bieber say something today?

who the fuck cares, news is useless shit to make you pissed off.

fuck everything

Status: Closed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448297)

> Monopolies on genetic testing have raised prices and reduced patient options.'"

Not A Bug
Works As Intended
Status: Closed

Patented Gene Tests Will Still Be Valid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448299)

This may end up being a big nothing as this case is only addressing the patenting of the genes themselves. The company in the original lawsuit still holds the patents to the tests that find the gene mutations, which is not a part of the case before the Court.

No way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448401)

No nothing in my body should be patented.

Does anyone really believe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43448407)

that the court that gave us such anti-corporation decisions like Citizens United and Eminent Domain will side against the corporations again? The Supreme Court will do nothing that will against corporations. Especially since Scalia is on the court.

No biotech patent thickets (1)

Grond (15515) | about a year ago | (#43448421)

"Those patents have created "patent thickets" that make it difficult for scientists to do genetic research and commercialize their results. "

Except that empirical research shows that gene patents have not created thickets or impeded genetic research or the commercialization of that research. See John P. Walsh, Charlene Cho, and Wesley M. Cohen, Patents, Material Transfers and Access to Research Inputs in Biomedical Research [druid.dk] , Final Report to the National Academy of Sciences’ Committee Intellectual Property Rights in Genomic and Protein-Related Inventions (2005) ("our results suggest that commercial activity is widespread among academic researchers. However, patenting does not seem to limit research activity significantly, particularly among those doing basic research.")

Re:No biotech patent thickets (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449029)

From the paper
" Nineteen percent currently receive industry funding for their research (accounting for 4% of their total research funding)"
or put another way 0.76% of the funding for the group including those who do not receive funding, which is hardly a striking contribution.
"Only 1% of our random sample of 398 academic respondents report suffering a project delay of more than a month due to patents"
but no apparent idea of how many researchers did not start research on a gene because of patents.....

reply (-1)

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bet (1)

shentino (1139071) | about a year ago | (#43448909)

I bet that the special interests will have too much at stake to let this be overturned.

I expect a swift congressional override in such a case.

Astronomy Analogy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43449093)

If human genes can be patented because they are hard to "look at" I am going to patent looking at the Andromeda Galaxy through a telescope. I fail to see the difference other than one is a bit harder to do.

Put the Case in Context (3, Interesting)

litehacksaur111 (2895607) | about a year ago | (#43449365)

If you read the case file, the reason this is even going to court is because Myriad Genetics decided to patent the gene for breast cancer. Some Yale researchers got an NIH grant to research breast cancer and they got sued by Myriad for patent infringement. This is absolute bullshit. Most of the information known about genetics and disease was discovered by scientists working in federally funded labs or on grants at universities. If the patent is granted where does this end? Does that mean the small pox vaccine should have been patented and that the WHO was wrong in getting rid of small pox. What about Jonas Salk and polio. What about Tay Sach's disease, hemophelia, Huntington's disease and all the other genetic disorders that were discovered by scientists who did not apply for patents on fundamental knowledge.

incentives to do the right thing. (1)

deimtee (762122) | about a year ago | (#43449383)

You know, it's not a nice thing, but I sort of hope that at least some of the judges are close to women who have had breast cancer.
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