Mossoff Contributes to New York Times Online Debate
With the Supreme Court expected to rule soon in a case involving patents held by Myriad Genetics on two human genes, the New York Times Room for Debate features the arguments of Professor Adam Mossoff and four others on the topic "Can the Human Blueprint Have Owners?"
Mossoff points out in his essay that while human genes are not patentable, Myriad's patents are valid because patents for identifying, isolating, and purifying something that already exists in the world are allowed.
"For example," Mossoff explains, "the inventor of aspirin at the turn of the 20th century isolated and synthesized the active ingredient in willow bark, which people had chewed for thousands of years to relieve pain and fever."
"But Myriad's patents don't cover genes in their naturally occurring, unisolated form, just as the aspirin patent did not cover chewable bark," he says. "Rather, the BRCA1 and BRCA2 patents claim the genes as isolated, purified, and used in a scientific or medical context."
"Thus Myriad's patents cover the same 'composition of matter' that these patents have always covered, and which built the modern pharmaceutical industry in the early 20th century," concludes Mossoff.
A Century-Old Form of Patent, The New York Times, June 6, 2013. By Adam Mossoff.
"The American patent system has always rewarded the productive labors of inventors and scientists who found ways to make naturally occurring products useful to people. These innovations, and the multibillion-dollar investment it took to achieve them, have made possible the wonders of modern life. As a result, medical treatments and tests are developed and sold to patients, and humans live longer and better lives."