| WASHINGTON, July 20
WASHINGTON, July 20 Myriad Genetics Inc
illegally patented acts of nature when it claimed ownership of
two genes linked to cancer, the federal government told an
appeals court on Friday.
Lawyers from Myriad, as well as the American Civil Liberties
Union and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office appeared in the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit at the direction
of the U.S. Supreme Court in order to examine the impact of Mayo
v. Prometheus, the high court's March ruling that companies
cannot patent observations about nature.
The three parties spent roughly 40 minutes arguing whether
the 2012 ruling should affect a 2011 Federal Circuit appeals
decision allowing Myriad to patent two human genes that account
for most forms of breast and ovarian cancers.
The Myriad case has been watched closely by the
biotechnology industry, with some insiders saying a ruling
against gene patenting could have a devastating effect on future
That includes the fledgling field of personalized medicine,
which depends on genetic tests, such as those developed by
Myriad, to match patients with specific therapies.
Myriad lawyer Greg Castanias argued on Friday that the
company's method is similar to turning a tree into a baseball
bat. The bat is wood from a tree, he said, but the process is
what makes it man-made and fair game for a patent.
But Patent and Trademark Office lawyer Melissa Patterson
likened the practice to claiming a patent for coal just because
they were the first to remove it from the ground.
Judges William Bryson, Alan Lourie and Kimberly Moore, the
same three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit which ruled in
Myriad's favor last year, heard Friday's arguments.
It could take months before a decision is reached, and an
appeal to the Supreme Court is likely, Castanias said.
The Federal Circuit case is Association of Molecular
Pathology v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, No. 2010-1406.