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Surprising Science

Federal Gene Patent Challenge

After years of supporting gene patents, the federal government has unexpectedly challenged controversial applications on naturally occurring DNA sequences.

“In a surprising legal brief filed late last week, the US Department of Justice suggested that the government’s long-standing support of the controversial practice of patenting genes might be coming to an end. The brief, filed on Friday in a landmark gene-patent lawsuit, argues that simply identifying an important DNA sequence within a genome is not enough to justify a patent. Instead, such a discovery is akin to finding coal and removing it from the earth, or separating cotton fibres from cotton seeds, lawyers for the US government wrote. ‘Common sense would suggest that a product of nature is not transformed into a human-made invention merely by isolating it,’ they wrote.”


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