Supreme Court To Decide Whether Facts Can Be Patented

As follow-up to our recent post on the patenting of scientific facts and products of nature, here’s a decent article on the issues at stake in the B Vitamin Case currently being argued by the Supreme Court.

The summary of the dispute is that Metabolite has sued testing company Laboratory Testing Company for violating their patent. What’s the patent? It’s this scientific fact: “The level of an amino acid called homocysteine is measured in a patient’s blood or urine and, if elevated, it can be correlated with a deficiency of folic acid, or B12.”

We got a little bit excited quoting that, because our girlfriends practically wrap their ankles around the nape of their neck every time we exhibit our anti-authoritative criminal streak. And we broke the law just by quoting that sentence, thereby sticking it to the man. Seems ridiculous? The question the court is deliberating today is even more absurd: if a doctor looks at a patient’s test results and even thinks that sentence, has he broken the law?

It’s an important case, because if the Supreme Court reigns in the insane Through-the-Looking-Glass logic of existing patent law, it is going to have huge repercussions on thousands of patents on drugs, computer software, medical devices and loads of other inventions. The sleazy hucksters who own 20% of your body will no longer be able to leech a living off of the Human Genome. Scientific and medical research will become cheaper and more efficient, coffers not constantly being drained by the bloodsuckers who patented a scientific fact.

We’re really intrigued by what the Supreme Court will decide here… we’ll keep our eye on it.

B Vitamin Case Reaches Supreme Court [Yahoo News]
Related: Michael Crichton On Companies Owning Products Of Nature


Edit Your Comment

  1. Lars says:

    This will not exactly make scientific research cheaper. The biggest cost in biomedical research is still human resources. But ruling against the patent holders here would be a good thing. Many of these patents are frivolous. The line has been crossed between incentivizing discovery and holding back progress. That’s what this case is all about.

  2. Nick says:

    If the court rules for the patent holders, will they be able to sue the court for all this thinking about their patent that they’ve done?

  3. Juancho says:

    I was reading the other day that what could really destroy genome and other “body” patents is that say you suffer from “x” disease that is supposedly curable, where the patent is owned by a certain company. Everyone with “x” disease could get together and file a class-action lawsuit against the patentholder for negligence.