Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Supreme Court: No Patents For Natural DNA Sequences

timothy posted about a year ago | from the finer-distinction-than-I'd-like dept.

The Courts 214

ColdWetDog writes "The ongoing story of Myriad Genetics versus the rest of the world has come to an end. In a 9-0 decision, the US Supreme Court has decided that human genes cannot be patented. From a brief Bloomberg article: 'Writing for the court, Justice Clarence Thomas said isolated DNA is a "product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated." At the same time, Thomas said synthetic molecules known as complementary DNA, or cDNA, can be patented because they require a significant amount of human manipulation to create.' Seems perfectly sane. Raw genes, the ones you find in nature are, wait for it — natural. Other bits of manipulated DNA / RNA / protein which take skill and time to create are potentially patentable. Oddly, Myriad Genetics stock actually rose on that information." Adds reader the eric conspiracy: "The result for Myriad is that they still have protection for their test, however the decision also allows researchers to work with the DNA sequences that are predecessors to the cDNA used in the test." Here's an AP report on the ruling, as carried by the Washington Post.

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Problems with this ruling (0, Offtopic)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a year ago | (#43997015)

There are several legal problems introduced by this ruling. First of all, the precedent of Western Pants Company Vs. Snelling holds that jeans are pants, except when they are worn by whales or dogs. Now where does this stand? What a bonanza for the lawyers! Really what we need is more MEXICO and less COMPUTERS.

Re:Problems with this ruling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997169)

This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?

Re:Problems with this ruling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997223)

Must be a lawyer.

Re:Problems with this ruling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997341)

2 questions.

What drug, and where can I get some?

Re:Problems with this ruling (1)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#43997813)

An old apple is omni-present, much like candy.

Re:Problems with this ruling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997515)

Really what we need is more MEXICO and less COMPUTERS.

I have to say that I agree.

Re:Problems with this ruling (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997835)

http://azpeacemakers.com/ [azpeacemakers.com]

Re:Problems with this ruling (1)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#43997779)

This is entirely a reasonable opinion. Most jeans don't fit the average whale, and whales have no legs, so any jeans being worn by a whale would be more akin to a locust playing a fiddle on a 10-ft tall aquarium light bulb. Seriously, since a glittering gem is nothing at all, a absquatulatory prodigous profile would wake the prime minister.

Why is it odd? (5, Interesting)

Eskarel (565631) | about a year ago | (#43997023)

The court case is over and the result wasn't actually all that bad. Sure Myriad and their stock holders would much rather have complete patent rights to the whole thing, but they kept the protections on their actual asset and the court case is now final and decided. Hell even if they'd lost completely their stock probably would have gone up because at least the risk was gone.

Re:Why is it odd? (5, Insightful)

bonehead (6382) | about a year ago | (#43997413)

The result wasn't that bad, but the real question is "Why the fuck was this ever even an issue in the first place"?

Patents should be for creations, not discoveries.

The ONLY people who should be entitled to a patent on my genome is my parents, and even that is questionable.

Or, I could see a patent on genes being issued to either "God" or "The Universe", depending upon religous beliefs (or lack thereof).

But this case should have never even been allowed to waste the court's time.

Re:Why is it odd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997849)

From the US Constitution:

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;

Re:Why is it odd? (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43998197)

That empowers Congress to create laws defining these things. Whether Congress can grant patents to discoveries is separate. Current law as defined by Congress, does not.

Re:Why is it odd? (3, Funny)

gman003 (1693318) | about a year ago | (#43997985)

Or, I could see a patent on genes being issued to either "God" or "The Universe", depending upon religous beliefs (or lack thereof).

Once again, I see people would rather ignore Pastafarianism than accept the objective evidence of its correctness.

I will note that DNA was obviously made by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, in his image. Why else would the foundation of life be so noodley? Yet more evidence we are correct!

Re:Why is it odd? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998139)

Once again, I see people would rather ignore Pastafarianism than accept the objective evidence of its correctness.

I will note that DNA was obviously made by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, in his image. Why else would the foundation of life be so noodley? Yet more evidence we are correct!

Oh, you religious nuts are all the same, twisting the evidence to reinforce your own nonsensical beliefs. If DNA were really the creation of some mythical Pasta, how do you explain the disparity between the portion of double helical pastas and the portion of double helical DNA? Or more to the point, where are the single helix based lifeforms, modeled in His noodley image?

No, if the latest findings from the field of theoretical physics are to be considered, the best evidence is for some form of six sided god with varying numbers of pips on each side depending on your denomination. Einstein was close when he said "God does not play at dice," for God *is* the dice. When you think about it, our youth has really known this for generations, naming the devout religious members of the population "squares."

Re:Why is it odd? (1)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#43997987)

Patents should be for creations, not discoveries.

Aren't all creations just discoveries on how to do something a particular way?

Re:Why is it odd? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998063)

The ONLY people who should be entitled to a patent on my genome is my parents, and even that is questionable.

It's probably much too late for your parents to claim a patent. If they're anything like my parents you (the invention) were publicly disclosed long before you were even born. The method used for your creation is also widely known, with an entire industry devoted to educational videos documenting many examples of the process and it's variations.

Re:Why is it odd? (1, Insightful)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year ago | (#43998173)

It was an issue because Congress was dragging ass on it. Even if you think such discovery should be protected, I still wouldn't hold my breath. They are inherently cowardly and lose fewer votes to inaction rather than risky action. Whenever a court decides something they should have addressed, or a regulatory agency does, everyone gets to throw up their hands and say, "I didn't do it!"

Re:Why is it odd? (5, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43997559)

It's disastrous. cDNA is just a direct copy of the most important part of what's in the genome—the actual transcript that gets used to make the final protein. This isn't a victory at all.

Re: Why is it odd? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997825)

They said may be patentable. Naturally occuring cDNA falls under the original ruling which stipulated human modification is a requirement for patent eligibility.

Re: Why is it odd? (4, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about a year ago | (#43998055)

The only time cDNA occurs naturally is in the reproduction of a retrovirus or the replication of a retrotransposon. Myriad is still using the natural human sequence in their tests. This is like getting ownership of a quote from a book because you copied it into a Notepad window and then into Google, instead of just pasting it directly into Google in the first place, and then claiming it's a good way to find a certain rare edition of the e-book because it contains a typo made by the original author. It's completely and utterly intellectually dishonest.

I assume Myriad didn't invent cDNA... (3, Interesting)

Rob Y. (110975) | about a year ago | (#43998155)

Right. The process for making a cDNA copy of a particular sequence is probably patentable. But I'm betting Myriad didn't invent that process. Whoever did should be able to patent it, and Myriad should have to pay them royalties for applying the process to the BRCA gene. And maybe something as general as cDNA construction should be a FRAND-type patent, so that it's owner can't 'own' all DNA by owning the standard testing methodology. Just like Motorola isn't allowed to own the cellphone industry by virtue of having come up with the standard communications protocol used by cellphones.

Re:Why is it odd? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998189)

No, cDNA is only one route. What the Supreme Court did was put up a big flashing sign saying 'you can use the naturally occuring sequence that Myriad found so long as you don't use the cDNA'.

Betcha people will find an alternative pretty quickly.

Re:Why is it odd? (1, Offtopic)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#43997619)

Wait, you mean the stock market is a complex system that isn't accurately described by a single "good news/bad news" model? But Slashdot has taught me that the easy and simplistic solution is always right!

Next you'll be telling me that a gold standard won't actually fix economic problems, or that Linux won't immediately replace Windows everywhere once it has $FEATURE... What madness is this?

Re:Why is it odd? (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43997845)

I wonder how much it costs to sue all the way to the Supreme Court. And lose.

Re:Why is it odd? (3, Informative)

RDW (41497) | about a year ago | (#43998035)

Sure Myriad and their stock holders would much rather have complete patent rights to the whole thing, but they kept the protections on their actual asset

If this is the case (and it probably is, hence the increased stock price), then the BRCA genes effectively remain patented in the US. Anyone 'skilled in the art' (like a grad student or junior technician) can trivially create 'artificial derivatives' of a known gene sequence (e.g. cDNA, as mentioned in the decision) just by 'designing' some primers (there's software to automate this), ordering them in (together with the relevant reagent kits), and following some step by step protocols. If this sort of thing is still patentable (as it seems to be), and Myriad is still the only provider allowed to offer a BRCA testing service, then the SC decision will make little practical difference for the moment - Myriad will still 'own' the genes if they are screened by standard methods. However, the decision might be good news for anyone using a 'next generation' sequencing approach, where relevant mutations are pulled out from (e.g.) a whole genome sequence (which isn't much more expensive than Myriad's price for targeted screening, and will be much cheaper in future):

http://www.genomicslawreport.com/index.php/2010/10/11/a-do-it-yourself-genomic-challenge-to-myriad-the-fda-and-the-future-of-genetic-tests/ [genomicslawreport.com]

Be still, my heart! (4, Funny)

some old guy (674482) | about a year ago | (#43997027)

A breath of IP sanity from SCOTUS? And unanimously at that?

Pinch me. Surely I dream.

Re:Be still, my heart! (1)

mooingyak (720677) | about a year ago | (#43997277)

The unanimous part was the weird bit for me. Partly because they all agreed, and partly because I thought the kind of cases that would have unanimous decisions usually didn't make it to the SCOTUS.

Re:Be still, my heart! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997449)

The unanimous part was the weird bit for me. Partly because they all agreed, and partly because I thought the kind of cases that would have unanimous decisions usually didn't make it to the SCOTUS.

They have unanimously voted against warrantless GPS tracking

Although it may have been after they were told THEY could be GPS-tracked as well.

Re:Be still, my heart! (1)

NatasRevol (731260) | about a year ago | (#43997889)

Still didn't stop the three letter agencies from GPS tracking our, and their, phones.

Re:Be still, my heart! (4, Informative)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43997875)

Some reasons that you get unanimous SCOTUS decisions:
1. SCOTUS took the case primarily to send a strong message to current and future courts and legislatures and presidents. A lot of those kinds of decisions get handled at the circuit court level, but in future case law it's one thing to cite that the Ninth Circuit said this or the First Circuit said that, and it's another thing entirely to cite a unanimous decision by a fairly divided Supreme Court.
2. It can be a judicial smack-down when a circuit court gets something wildly wrong.
3. It could be that the Chief Justice wants to get everyone to speak with one voice on a particular issue. This usually causes decisions to take a while, as the Chief convinces the 4 holdouts to agree with the majority.

Re:Be still, my heart! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998071)

In the case of Patents they do, since all Patent appeals flow the the Federal District, instead of the regions. And the Federal District is a bunch of idiots who routinely ignore SCOTUS precedent because they are all former patent litigators. I think SCOTUS might now be overturning them even more than the 9th as of late.

Re:Be still, my heart! (5, Funny)

UnknowingFool (672806) | about a year ago | (#43997319)

No, you're not. And don't call me Shirley.

Re:Be still, my heart! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997339)

A breath of IP sanity from SCOTUS? And unanimously at that?

Indeed.

Even the good recent decisions are uncomfortably often a 5-4 split (meaning that we could be one retirement away from flipping them). That thought disturbs me...

Re:Be still, my heart! (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#43997427)

This isn't good enough. Creating cDNA is not a creative act. Extract RNA, apply a reverse transcriptase. Now you have cDNA. The sequence of the cDNA(and the protein product it codes for) is 100% determined by the sequence of the RNA, which is a natural product.

Re:Be still, my heart! (2)

OG (15008) | about a year ago | (#43997645)

I think it's a bit more complicated than that. Blindly creating cDNA is one thing. Identifying particular cDNA that can be used for therapeutic purposes is a whole other thing and requires a lot of research. I can understand protections for the first researcher/group to identify a particular sequence that can be used for gene therapies. It's fair to address exactly what those protections should be. We need protections from people who want to patent sequences willy-nilly. There needs to be a strong reason for why the particular sequence in question has been identified for protection. Perhaps a form of copyright may be more appropriate there than patent.

Re:Be still, my heart! (4, Insightful)

afidel (530433) | about a year ago | (#43997803)

Perhaps a form of copyright may be more appropriate there than patent.

Oh hell no! Since copyright is DeFacto forever thanks to the MickyMouse Copyright Extension Act it would be MUCH worse if they could be granted a copyright on genes.

Re:Be still, my heart! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998007)

Perhaps a form of copyright may be more appropriate there than patent.

Oh hell no! Since copyright is DeFacto forever thanks to the MickyMouse Copyright Extension Act it would be MUCH worse if they could be granted a copyright on genes.

Seriously. Imagine being diagnosed with a particular genetic condition and then being told you have to pay a license fee.

Re:Be still, my heart! (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#43997919)

Identifying particular cDNA that can be used for therapeutic purposes is a whole other thing and requires a lot of research.

Identifying a particular gene or piece of mRNA that can be used for theraputic purposes requires a lot of research too. This has nothing to do with whether that gene, mRNA, or cDNA is a "natural product" or not.

Re:Be still, my heart! (3, Insightful)

tpjunkie (911544) | about a year ago | (#43997699)

Assuming that you're targeting processed mRNA. I feel the same way as you however. I believe that producing cDNA of a naturally occurring protein (whether wild type or novel mutation) is not "creation" per se, so much as translation (well, reverse translation followed by reverse transcription if you want to be anal) of an existing, natural item. Are translations patentable? Perhaps copyright is more appropriate, although the existing copyright laws might actually be worse than patent law.

Re:Be still, my heart! (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43998029)

> Creating cDNA is not a creative act.

Umm your sentence is self-contradictory.

Same as Obama's mock-attack on patent trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998209)

This decision is the very opposite of what is being reported. It was explicitly designed to give Myriad and other US bio-tech companies (companies that put billions of dollars into the pockets of US politicians every year via 'legal' insider-trading stock market deals) exactly what they need to continue business as usual.

Obama's laughable 'attack' on patent trolls is the exact same con. The proposed changes to the US patent system (over-seen by the biggest supporters of software patents- IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and Google) will actually strengthen the position of patent trolls, and this is the intention.

The SCOTUS decision states you cannot patent examples of actual, static DNA found in nature, but you CAN patent ANY chemical process on the DNA, regardless of how similar that chemical process is to chemical processes that occur naturally as a consequence of the function of genetic material. And the owners of Slashdot would like to tell its more gullible readers that this is some form of victory. The decision reached might as well have been written by Myriad Genetics itself (and probably was).

Here's a clue for the clueless. The 9-0 decision is the give-away. It means the so-called 'loser' in the case was actually fully behind the decision. Had Myriad opposed the decision, you would have seen something like 6-3 at best (Myriad's bribes and political lobbying would have guaranteed them the support of some of the judges).

The market works on expectations (4, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#43997079)

Oddly, Myriad Genetics stock actually rose on that information.

That's not really surprising. All that means is that the market expected the news to be worse than it actually was. Once the ruling was handed down and the uncertainty removed, the stock rebounds based on the new information. You'll see this all the time where a company has a terrible quarter and their stock price goes up because while it was indeed terrible, it wasn't as terrible as expected.

Re:The market works on expectations (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43997333)

Ah yes. Thanks. I keep trying to apply rationality to the stock market.

You'd think I would have learned by now.

Re:The market works on expectations (2)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#43997459)

I don't see any sanity in your reasoning. Everyone knew this case was at the SCOTUS, and everyone knew that patenting something that occurs naturally was not what patent law was supposed to do. Thus the stock had been tanking already at the time when the lawsuit became known. Stocks usually move at new information, not at confirmation of old information.

New information vs expectations (2)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#43998001)

Everyone knew this case was at the SCOTUS, and everyone knew that patenting something that occurs naturally was not what patent law was supposed to do.

There is NEVER certainty regarding a SCOTUS ruling. Expectations cover a spectrum and not everyone makes the same bet. SCOTUS could have ruled in such a way that this company lost their patent protection altogether which appears to not have happened. Just because what you outlined is the most likely outcome does not mean it is the only possible outcome. Some people were clearly betting on other, more pessimistic, outcomes than the one that actually occurred. It's pretty much the same thing as betting on the long shot in a horse race instead of betting on the favorite. The odds are against you but if you are right the profit is much higher.

Stocks usually move at new information, not at confirmation of old information.

The SCOTUS ruling IS new information. Prior to the decision there were expectations regarding the ruling but it could not be treated as a certainty.

Re:The market works on expectations (1)

njnnja (2833511) | about a year ago | (#43998057)

Stocks usually move at new information, not at confirmation of old information.

Often described as "Buy the rumor, sell the news."

Markets are chaotic and (usually) rational (3, Informative)

sjbe (173966) | about a year ago | (#43997807)

Ah yes. Thanks. I keep trying to apply rationality to the stock market.

It is extremely rational behavior. Think of it like playing a poker hand. You have imperfect information so you make your bets based on the likelihoods of various results. Some results are more likely that others and you play accordingly. As more information becomes available your betting strategy may change. That is exactly what is happening here.

One has to understand what is driving prices for the stock market to make any sense. Information about company performance is at the core but it is NOT what drives prices. There is no direct link between a company's financial performance and their stock price. What drives prices is peoples expectations and in some cases people's expectations about other people's expectations. (and even expectations about expectations about expectations... you can keep going) If you invest in the stock market you are placing a bet not so much on what a company will do but on what other people will think about the company. When you buy IBM stock you are saying in essence "I expect more people to find this valuable in the future". Any secondary market (stocks, baseball cards, tulips, real estate, etc) works this way. It's shockingly rational (with some exceptions) but highly chaotic and thus hard to predict.

Re:The market works on expectations (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | about a year ago | (#43997493)

They asked for $100, they got $50, and they expected to have $1...So, win-win.

Re:The market works on expectations (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43997585)

It was actually good news for Myriad, not just non-terrible news. While they did lose some parts of their patent, the core test is still protected.

In addition the way the decision was stated settles the entire field of biotech patents in such a way as to give certainty that there will be lots of opportunity for patentable inventions in the field, AND that R&D activities on isolated human DNA will be able to continue without threat of patent suits.

It isn't just Myriad stock that is up today. The stock market index for the WHOLE BIOTECH INDUSTRY is up substantially.

Wow (2)

pablo_max (626328) | about a year ago | (#43997099)

I am actually surprised by the ruling. I fully expected the courts to say you can patent anything, so long as you are first to file. Glad to hear it nonetheless.

Re:Wow (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43997211)

I am actually surprised by the ruling. I fully expected the courts to say you can patent anything, so long as you are first to file. Glad to hear it nonetheless.

I'd assume that you can, in fact, apply to patent anything; but one would hope that "Prior art older than human civilization, quite possibly older than humanity, depending on the DNA involved" would cause you problems...

Re:Wow (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about a year ago | (#43997647)

I suspect the mega-corporation with our government in their pockets have already thought this through. They will use big pharmy and gene therapy to get artificial dna sequences into your genome. Then they own your genetic ass anyway.

Laugh now, and just wait about 10 years....

Re:Wow (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about a year ago | (#43997909)

Oh, so that's what GMO organisms are for, so big business can own our ass (even more than they already do).

Nothing to see here... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997109)

>the US Supreme Court has decided that human genes cannot be patented

Naturally occurring human genes. And this has always been the understood law, the Supreme court has just reiterated it. Investment of human labor or creativity to produce something non-natural is patentable.

The bigger news here... (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997165)

is that Clarence Thomas said something (even writing an opinion). He's only been on the court, what, 10+ years or something?

Re:The bigger news here... (2, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43997249)

is that Clarence Thomas said something (even writing an opinion). He's only been on the court, what, 10+ years or something?

Antonin Scalia's mind-meld field is vulnerable to disruption by sunspots, geomagnetic anomalies, and nearby homosexuals. Some mistakes are inevitable from time to time...

Simpler Explanation (0)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about a year ago | (#43998123)

Scalia just *told* Thomas to write and speak.

Next October, they will begin the year with Thomas rolling over, and fetching Scalia's slippers.

Re:The bigger news here... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | about a year ago | (#43997335)

22 years come this fall.

Re:The bigger news here... (5, Informative)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | about a year ago | (#43997363)

Contrary to the uninformed popular opinion, Clarence Thomas has been very active during his time on the court. He just mostly leaves questions in oral arguments to other judges, which is only a small part of what judges do. It used to be common for Justices to take that approach, but recently it stands out since the others have started to enjoy the sound of their own cleverness much more, whether it contributes to the resolution of a case or not.

Re:The bigger news here... (1)

jellie (949898) | about a year ago | (#43997819)

Judges also ask questions during oral arguments specifically to direct the subject or issues in a certain direction. For example, during the debate over Obama's health plan (PPACA), Scalia asked questions about the government forcing people to eat broccoli, while other justices asked questions about requiring car insurance payments.

Thomas is unusual because he almost never speaks, yet he clearly has a political bias. Back in January, he finally asked a question (or made a comment, no one is quite sure) for the first time in seven years. It was surprising enough that it was noteworthy [slashdot.org] .

Re:The bigger news here... (1)

jellie (949898) | about a year ago | (#43997833)

Oops, here's the link [washingtonpost.com] .

Re:The bigger news here... (2)

jfengel (409917) | about a year ago | (#43998005)

Perhaps you can explain this to me... what is the value of oral arguments at all?

The justices get vast piles of paper documents, extensive briefs, case histories, etc etc etc. The oral arguments are generally given only a single hour; if I remember correctly the PPACA was given a whopping afternoon. These are complex issues; a case doesn't reach the Supreme Court unless there is genuine disagreement among very high level legal minds. They will proceed to hash it out among themselves and with their clerks, for many hours.

Is anything actually achieved by oral arguments? It seems mainly an opportunity for lawyers to get flustered, choose the wrong tack while thinking on their feet, be manipulated by the justices, and oversimplify.

Is Thomas' silence really a comment on the fact that this is a waste of his, and everybody else's, time?

I'm asking this in all seriousness. I'm not a lawyer and I wouldn't presume to tell them how to do their business. But as an outsider, I find this perplexing.

Re:The bigger news here... (3, Informative)

Antipater (2053064) | about a year ago | (#43997403)

Thomas writes opinions as often as any other justice. His famed silence only applies during oral arguments. And he's hardly the first "silent" justice - it's simply made more prominent by how verbose his colleagues are.

Re:The bigger news here... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#43998021)

The reason the other justices ask a lot of questions is not because they want to hear themselves talk. They walk in there having already read the gist of what each lawyer is arguing in the briefs that were filed a long time ago. What they're usually after in oral argument is counsel's response to any issues the justices may have thought of that counsel did not, and those are the questions they typically pepper counsel with.

Re:The bigger news here... (3, Informative)

sed quid in infernos (1167989) | about a year ago | (#43997419)

Justice Thomas has been on the court for more than 20 years (which, yes, is technically 10+, but still). During that time, he has authored more than 600 opinions.

Entropy infringement? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997171)

Other bits of manipulated DNA / RNA / protein which take skill and time to create are potentially patentable."

I won't claim to understand enough genetics to make an assessment which is why I'm posing the question instead: Can these 'other bits' of manipulation occur naturally, over time, due to natural mutations and evolution?

Re:Entropy infringement? (1)

berashith (222128) | about a year ago | (#43998099)

possibly, but the next big question after that is ... can Monsanto sue nature?

THIS MADE MY DAY!! (2)

LF11 (18760) | about a year ago | (#43997233)

This is definitely call-everybody-I-know newsworthy! Holy cow! Gonna mark this day and celebrate it next year! I can't believe this is happening!

Re:THIS MADE MY DAY!! (4, Funny)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year ago | (#43997321)

Do you find you often get peoples' voicemail?

Re:THIS MADE MY DAY!! (1, Informative)

LF11 (18760) | about a year ago | (#43997441)

Yes, but they call me back. :) I don't call people unless it's important. :)

Re:THIS MADE MY DAY!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997389)

This is definitely call-everybody-I-know newsworthy! Holy cow! Gonna mark this day and celebrate it next year! I can't believe this is happening!

And we have been reduced to celebrating the obvious decisions that should not even have gone to court.

I'll celebrate when they reverse a few of seemingly unconstitutional laws/ban unconstitutional practices/allow to sue against "secret" laws without having to conclusively prove that you have been targeted.

Re:THIS MADE MY DAY!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998067)

I don't get it

BUT... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997243)

This is a great decision that falls under the category of "duh".

However, I wish they had inserted a caveat that the original manufacturer of the product (the human whose DNA is in question and comprises a good portion of their identity) retains rights to approve or disapprove usage of any "unique or nearly unique sequences". Without that protection, they could steal your sweat and clone you.

If you go to hospital (0)

stanlyb (1839382) | about a year ago | (#43997367)

And give you a cure, that "modifies" your DNA, then do they own you???
You don't know? But, but it is well known fact that everything changes your DNA, even the food that you eat, could cause a change.....oh, nevermind, soon, the "Unincorporated man" will become a reality, and then we will have to move to "Unincorporated war"...

Re:If you go to hospital (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a year ago | (#43997393)

but it is well known fact that everything changes your DNA, even the food that you eat, could cause a change..

Put the comic books down.

Re:If you go to hospital (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997435)

No, dipshit, they don't. Please tell me your post was just failed humor and you're not retarded enough to seriously think that...

Re:If you go to hospital (0)

stanlyb (1839382) | about a year ago | (#43997579)

Yes idiot, they do, it is well proven fact.

Re:If you go to hospital (1)

medv4380 (1604309) | about a year ago | (#43997687)

You're clearly mixed up some of the latest information on epigenetics with genetics. So how about you go back to your half read science articles, and finish them.

Re:If you go to hospital (2)

jbeaupre (752124) | about a year ago | (#43997589)

And give you a cure, that "modifies" your DNA, then do they own you???

No. No more than the hundreds of patented products you have bought are owned by the patent holder. By providing you the cure, a hospital would be granting you a license to the end result. You own the result. But you might still face restrictions from providing the cure to others such as your descendents.

Re:If you go to hospital (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | about a year ago | (#43997673)

You mean, i cannot give my blood for free? or my lilver? or my kidney? or my heart? or my brain? And after a very long thinking process (2seconds), even the thinking process is owned by the patent holder???

Michael Crichton would be proud (2)

SpaceManFlip (2720507) | about a year ago | (#43997387)

Reading the book "Next" by Michael Crichton awhile back alerted me to the nonsense going on with gene patents. There's even a scene in the book where a guy with a rare genetic mutation is chased by the equivalent of bail bondsmen for a company holding a patent on his genes. They want to capture him and bring him in for running around with "their" genes in his body or something like that.

Good job, SCOTUS

A thought experiment (5, Interesting)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year ago | (#43997447)

What if a company makes and patents a cDNA that is later found to also exist naturally?

Have we sequenced every variant of every species?

Case in point, Monsato make GM crops that resist herbicides. What if the parts they are patenting, have analouges in some other plant in the wild?

Re:A thought experiment (3, Insightful)

Nutria (679911) | about a year ago | (#43997549)

Then presumably they'd be overturned by prior art.

Re:A thought experiment (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | about a year ago | (#43997603)

They will sue the "Nature", and rape her...

Re:A thought experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998041)

That wouldn't help them; raping Nature is also prior art.

You are all being misled... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997651)

The stocks rose because the court basically gave them the copyright they wanted while fooling the writers at Slashdot that this wasn't the case.

cDNA is natural and is the way the DNA works- it's like saying you can't have the copyright for hydraulic dams but you can have the copyright for using turbines on rivers to produce energy (ok, not a perfect analogy), but the point is it's tantamont to the same thing. Also, cDNA is not particularly hard to isolate and not moreso than DNA so more than a little confused by their justification (most sequencing projects start with cDNA because it is in fact easier to do in many ways- true story).

Re:A thought experiment (1)

SecurityGuy (217807) | about a year ago | (#43997675)

Realistically, it goes back to court.

Re:A thought experiment (3, Interesting)

ankhank (756164) | about a year ago | (#43997853)

! yep

We already know that's the case for antibiotics. And we know plants compete with one another by suppressing competitors' growth.

Seems to me Thomas's comment is intended to add a loophole -- "we created this cDNA and patented it, so we have the patent, so if you claim you found the exact same thing out there in nature somewhere, it must be you stole it from us." Betcha.

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1215093 [nejm.org]
The Future of Antibiotics and Resistance
Brad Spellberg, M.D., John G. Bartlett, M.D., and David N. Gilbert, M.D.
N Engl J Med 2013; 368:299-302January 24, 2013DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1215093
----------------
"... after billions of years of evolution, microbes have most likely invented antibiotics against every biochemical target that can be attacked — and, of necessity, developed resistance mechanisms to protect all those biochemical targets. Indeed, widespread antibiotic resistance was recently discovered among bacteria found in underground caves that had been geologically isolated from the surface of the planet for 4 million years.2 Remarkably, resistance was found even to synthetic antibiotics that did not exist on earth until the 20th century. These results underscore a critical reality: antibiotic resistance already exists, widely disseminated in nature, to drugs we have not yet invented.

"Thus, from the microbial perspective, all antibiotic targets are “old” targets...."
-----------------

WTF does 'natural' mean? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997457)

Sounds like a very vague ruling. Any sequence is possible in nature and thus natural so no DNA may be patented!

Re:WTF does 'natural' mean? (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about a year ago | (#43997753)

Thanks to quantum mechanics, it's also fully possible for my entire body to randomly disintegrate over here, and reintegrate perfectly intact in your closet. That does not mean that someone who produces a machine for that should be denied patent protection... Unless, of course, the invention consists of a box holding a leprechaun, who have had the natural ability to teleport for thousands of years.

A "natural" gene would have been found in nature and isolated. The researchers don't really need to know how or why the gene does what it does - they just put it in a box. On the other hand, they can take a look at the gene, figure out what makes it work, and synthesize a cDNA sequence that does the job effectively - Building a leprechaun-like machine.

Splitting the baby (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about a year ago | (#43997489)

This is really a great decision that benefits everyone, in the following ways.

1. Isolated DNA is not patentable. This allows R&D on DNA to proceed unencumbered.

2. Commercial development of technologies using synthetic DNA derivatives for useful products is encouraged by allowing patent coverage.

Who knew... (1, Funny)

firesyde424 (1127527) | about a year ago | (#43997581)

SCOTUS agrees unanimously on something? *Looks at the calendar* It's not April 1st... Am I being punked??

Re:Who knew... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997957)

A fair number of their decisions are unanimous, just the high profile/political ones generate the split.

Good, because otherwise.... (1)

tekrat (242117) | about a year ago | (#43997599)

I was planning to patent Sunshine.

Unanimous defeat of common sense (2)

mar.kolya (2448710) | about a year ago | (#43997709)

Isn't cDNA just same DNA but written a bit differently? That is, it contains same information. And it looks like this ruling allows one to patent that information! The very same information that is used to produce proteins in YOUR body. This ruling sounds like - we cannot allow you to patent your record in MP3 format, but if you transcode it to FLAC - go ahead and patent it. Doesn't make any sense.

What the hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997829)

cDNA is DNA synthesized from a copy of a product of nature, mRNA. Significant human manipulation is not required. Unless you consider 5 min work significant..

Re:What the hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43997843)

That is to say, they were granted the patents they wanted.. in essence, the genes.

Can we take this further, please? (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#43997841)

Could we please use this same logic to say that the human desire to openly and freely share thoughts and ideas is natural and therefore ineligible for legal protection? Thanks.

A good start (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43997933)

Naturally-occurring human genes is a narrowly defined set that isn't patentable, but still this will save many lives by allowing cheap genetic testing for things such as breast cancer susceptibility.

cDNA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43998009)

For those of you who don't know:

Complementary DNA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complementary_DNA) is basically a copy of the information from a gene.

Cells make RNA using the information from DNA and then the information is used to make a protein (which does the "real work"). cDNA is generally made by isolating the RNA from a cell and adding a protein called Reverse Transcriptase (from retroviruses) that converts the information of the RNA into DNA (mainly because DNA is easier to sequence and use).

The information from cDNA is identical to parts of the original DNA sequence, except it will sometimes have naturally occurring "edits". Other differences can be the result of "errors" produced by reverse transcriptase (usually contributes to the mutation rate of the virus).

Short version: cDNA is a copy of information encoded in the genome.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?