another link from Wired this morning: pro bono group’s challenge to patent on naturally-occurring genetic material allowed to proceed:
U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet of New York, in ruling that the case may proceed to trial, noted that the litigation might open the door to challenges of a host of other patented genes. About one-fifth of the human genome is covered under patent applications and claims.
Allowing patents on genes isolated from living things is bad policy, because it delays and imposes costs on important research even while it raises administrative costs by promoting speculative land-rush patent filing. The patent act was never meant to encompass natural phenomena, and the last 20 years of biotech patenting can only be explained by the fact that 20 years ago, patent examiners and judges didn’t understand the science well enough to reject these claims on the grounds that the claimed “invention” was occurring on its own, naturally, without human intervention.
Hopefully this is just another sign of an ongoing rollback in the scope of patentable subject matter. If Bilski ends the era of business method patents, it will probably have the collateral effect of putting a stake through the heart of software patents at the same time. If this case about gene patents is also carried through effectively, we’ll have come a long way back towards sanity in the US patent system.
And, incidentally, created a lot of work for patent litigators specialized in challenging business method, software, and gene patents on behalf of new market entrants.