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The Yau Law Firm
Focused on Protecting Businesses and Representing the Injured

Should Gene Patents Be Allowed?

What does the Yau Law Firm have to say about patents in the field of human genetics? Scientific innovation and patent protection have once again met face to face. The ever lingering question remains: can you patent protect something that humans are naturally born with? Can one company prevent all others from using a gene that is found in all humans? On the other hand, is a company entitled to reap the benefits of their years of hard work and innovation?

This is the debate that has been sparked by the recent rise of the celebrity breast cancer gene mutation, BRCA1. Angelina Jolie, the famous actress and activist, recently underwent a double mastectomy (where both breasts were removed) after learning that she was a carrier of the gene mutation that could increase her chances of developing breast cancer. Jolie published her story in the New York Times as the issue was being presented to the United States Supreme Court in Association of Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics.

Those against patent protection for companies like Myriad argue that genes should not be patentable and that many more lives can be saved from cheaper testing if the patent protection is not given. Myriad and its supporters argue that this type of technology is absolutely patentable and that patent protection is one of the best ways to spark innovation. Myriad claims that the actual human DNA is not what is the nature of the patent, but a complimentary artificial strand of cDNA that was created in a lab. This concept can be visualized like a zipper. If you were to find a zipper on the ground with one side missing, you might take it home and create a new side that fits perfectly with the original side. Myriad has done this with the BRCA1 gene.

They created a new side of the zipper that is capable of determining if the original zipper is faulty or not. This type of genetic innovation is breakthrough, life-altering, very expensive, and time consuming to create. In fact Myriad invested over $500 Million dollars in this project and it took the company approximately 17 years to break even. No company would invest this type of time or money if they did not have some kind of assurance that they could protect their investment. Therefore, many agree that this type of technology would not even exist at this time if the incentive of patent protection did not exist.

Patent protection has forever changed the way this country does business, and patents can be a very important aspect of all businesses. Yau Law Firm is very experienced with patents–large and small–and we can put you on the right track to protecting your innovative investments. Contact us today to find out how we can protect your invention!

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