The human genome is vast, consisting of tens of thousands of protein-coating genes. But did you know that 20 per cent of those genes have been patented by multibillion-dollar corporations? That might soon change. On Monday, a U.S. federal judge threw out patents on two genes linked to ovarian and breast cancer. If the decision is upheld, say many, it could spur a massive overhaul of intellectual property law—bringing thousands of existing patents on human genes under scrutiny. Judge Sweet argued that the two patents in question were “improperly granted” because they dealt with a “law of nature.” The American Civil Libertiecs Union has joined together with lawyers, patients and medical organizations to fight to patents; they argue that since genes are products of nature, they cannot be patented by industry. Critics, however, say patents are necessary to encourage genetic research.
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