CGS and other groups file brief in support of challenge to gene patents

Posted by Jesse Reynolds September 1, 2009
Biopolitical Times
gavel and legal texts

A number of social justice and women’s health organizations, including the Center for Genetics and Society, filed a "friend of the court" brief [PDF] last week in support of the ACLU / Public Patent Foundation lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of human gene patents. The amicus brief – filed by CGS, the Pro-Choice Alliance for Responsible Research (PCARR), Generations Ahead, Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice, and the National Women’s Health Network –  makes three central arguments:

  • Human genes and their relationships with phenotypic characteristics are not patentable because they are products and laws of nature, respectively.
  • Such patents harm people by hindering health access and medical research. The patent at the center of the lawsuit covers genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer; these patents are particularly problematic for women’s health.
  • The human genome is the common heritage of humanity, and thus part of the public domain.

The brief was written by Susan Berke Fogel and Debra Greenfield of PCARR and my colleague Marcy Darnovsky of CGS with pro bono support from attorneys Jennifer Rubin and Martin Domb of Akerman Senterfitt LLP, UC Davis Law Professor Lisa Ikemoto, and Yale Law School student Sam Berger.

Several other organizations filed two separate amicus briefs backing the challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation. One [PDF] was submitted by the American Medical Association, the American Society of Human Genetics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Embryology, and The Medical Society of the State of New York; another [PDF] by the March of Dimes Foundation, the Canavan Foundation, the Claire Altman Heine Foundation, the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and the National Tay-Sachs & Allied Diseases Association.

Previously on Biopolitical Times: