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The debate over human gene patents was recently reignited by New York federal Judge Robert Sweet, when he found isolated human gene sequences unpatentable in Association for Molecular Pathology v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office , 702 F.Supp.2d 181 (S.D.N.Y. 2010). An appeal of the decision is pending, and in October, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus curiae brief in the case arguing that such gene sequences should not be patentable, contradicting long-standing practices of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Given the potent impact of a possible gene patent ban on gene-based medical therapies and the biotechnology industry at large, the arguments for and against patenting human genes must be carefully considered. Unfortunately, much of the current legal debate has centered on technical aspects of patent law doctrine and not the significant policy arguments that also need to be resolved. It is therefore important to evaluate the issue in a fuller context, taking into account health care access, scientific research and ethical concerns.


Posted with permission of The Recorder.