One of the year's most important Supreme Court cases turned out to be an easier than expected.
Isolated human genes may not be patented, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday. The case concerned patents held by Myriad Genetics, a Utah company, on genes that correlate with increased risk of hereditary breast and ovarian cancer.The patents were challenged by scientists and doctors who said their research and ability to help patients had been frustrated.... The decision hewed closely to the position of the Obama administration, which had argued that isolated DNA could not be patented, but that complementary DNA, or cDNA, which is an artificial construct, could. The patentability of cDNA could limit some of the impact on industry from the decision.
The entirety of the ruling in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics is online here (pdf).
DNA, the ruling said, is "a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated." On the other hand, artificial genetic material created in laboratories can be patented.
NBC News' Pete Williams and Erin McClam added that patient advocates expect the decision to increase competition and lower the cost of screenings for cancer risk and other genetic tests. Civil libertarians agree, with the ACLU noting that the court ruling has "lifted a major barrier to progress" in treating and preventing diseases.