Making sense of the confusing Supreme Court DNA patent ruling


16 Responses to “Making sense of the confusing Supreme Court DNA patent ruling”

  1. theophrastvs says:

    one helluva lot of legal fuzziness hinges upon the definition of “natural”.   just one definition “without artificial intervention [of humans]” typically ends up becoming meaningless once humans feel the need to adjudicate something being natural or not.  (~legalistic quantum mechanics)

  2. Lyle Hopwood says:

    “DNA, you’ll remember, is like a twisted ladder, a double helix. Split the ladder in half, and you get RNA.” – No, you get single-stranded DNA. There’s an entire copying step to be done to get mRNA, which is chemically different. This ‘transcription’ is followed by the splicing to get rid of non-coding regions (introns) and other editing to make the final mRNA.  (If you think about it, you can’t use the original single strand of DNA – once it’s chopped up you wouldn’t be able to use it as a storage device any more.)

    • theophrastvs says:

      yep.  plus the little matter of:  “in RNA, uracil base-pairs with adenine and replaces thymine during DNA transcription”

      • Thank you for letting me know that my simplification had drifted into oversimplification. I’ve gone back and tried to clarify that RNA isn’t just DNA split down the middle. I’m trying to simplify the process here for the sake of a clear mental image and getting to the point (cDNA) faster. But I also don’t want to be misleading. 

  3. marvintucker says:

    So Eli Whitney can’t patent “natural” cotton in the field, but legally he owns separated cotton fiber. What could possibly go wrong?

  4. notgyet13 says:

    Great analysis, thanks.  I do stand by my original assessment, though:  Myriad can’t patent BRCA genes, but they can build Cylons.

  5. Brainspore says:

    Justice Ginsberg looks like she can’t wait to get the hell away from those people.

  6. ralphbon says:

    As long as you’re tweaking, it’s complementary DNA. Complimentary DNA is DNA the bank gives you when you open a checking account.

  7. indubitably says:

    I own me. You own you.



  8. Fex says:

    “cDNA can happen in nature, without the help of scientists. HIV, for example, can turn its own RNA into cDNA.That’s how it makes copies of itself.”

    OK guys, new plan: Someone patent the cDNA of HIV and then if it tries to reproduce, we sue! We’ll destroy its whole business model!

  9. Preston Sturges says:

    In the DNA > mRNA > cDNA process, the introns in the DNA  are removed by the cell when the mRNA is made, so the cDNA does not have introns either.  Many genes with mutations that cause disease have got 15 or more introns, and the mutations can be in the intron because they screw up the mRNA processing.  ( … skipping a few details)  Without a patent on the DNA intron sequences, they can’t monopolize the diagnostcs. 

  10. Evan says:

    The fact that it’s this hard to make sense of the ruling just proves how broken the patent system is. When something that is meant to bolster innovation is instead stifling it:

  11. austinhamman says:

    so am i breaking the law if my cells copy patented genetic code?

  12. Michael Wosnick says:

    The problem with most of the analyses I have seen so far is that whether describing so-called “natural” DNA/gene or cDNA the focus has been on the molecule itself, i.e., is it naturally occurring or is it “man-made”. I feel this is fallacious to begin with since what is actually important is the INFORMATION that is encoded by those molecules. If you go back to that as the most fundamental of precepts, then there is no difference between the information encoded in the cDNA version of the gene and the information  encoded in the original (natural) DNA molecule. This is why I think the hair-splitting of the Supreme Court is not based on any real biological distinctions but rather on a flimsy compromise that keeps the murk alive.

  13. I thought that one of the main issues with the BRCA-Myriad patent was that they were the only ones aloud to conduct research on this gene, hence they are the only ones that know the specific mutations linked to cancer. The patent of the gene by itself  (in this case) wasnt the big deal (you are not going to get a demand for having the gene, all humanity has it), but the research done with it and the information linked to cancer. With the new supreme court decision, the research is now open to everyone, and it doesnt matter if the cDNA is still patented. 

Leave a Reply