April 15 Photo Brief: H7N9 bird flu virus in China, 101st anniversary of Titanic sinking, SCOTUS hears human gene patent case
H7N9 bird flu virus in China, 101st anniversary of Titanic sinking, SCOTUS hears human gene patent case and more in today’s daily brief.
Supreme Court critical of patents on human genes
By David G. Savage
12:57 p.m. EDT, April 15, 2013
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court justices said Monday they were highly skeptical of the idea that a company or a scientist can hold a patent on human genes and prevent others from testing or using them.
“What about the first person who found a liver?” asked Justice Elena Kagan.
She was agreeing with other justices who said patents should not be given for “products of nature,” whether they are plant leaves that cure a disease or tiny parts of the human body.
Justice Stephen Breyer said patent law involves an “uneasy compromise” because it seeks to advance science and innovation by giving an inventor a temporary monopoly to profit from an advance.
If inventors devise a new use for a substance, they can patent this use, he said. But they cannot patent the underlying substance, he added. “It’s important to keep products of nature free” for use by all, he said.