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Gene Patents, Again

A US Senate panel is considering legislation that would expand the array of subject matter that is eligible to be patented — including, possibly, genes, as GenomeWeb has reported.

The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property held hearings this week and is to hold another hearing next week to discuss draft legislation on patent eligibility introduced by Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

If the new amendment becomes law, Futurism writes that biotech and pharmaceutical companies could be able to patent human genes. This, the Washington Post notes, would reverse US Supreme Court rulings handed down in a series of three cases — Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics Inc.Mayo Collaborative Services v. Prometheus Laboratories Inc., and Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International — that said products of nature, laws of nature, and abstract ideas cannot be patented.

As GenomeWeb notes, proponents of the draft bill say it would reform patent law and bring it in line with European, Japanese, and Chinese patent laws, while critics argue it would slow medical advances and prevent competition.