ACLU and Coalition Partners Oppose Draft Legislation That Would Permit Patents on Human Genes

WASHINGTON June 3, 2019 – Senators Coons and Tillis and Representatives Collins, Johnson, and Stivers jointly released draft legislation in May that would authorize patenting of laws of nature, products of nature, and abstract ideas. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Association for Molecular Pathology, and over 100 other organizations sent a letter to Capitol Hill expressing their opposition to the recent proposal, arguing it explicitly overrules Supreme Court precedent forbidding the patenting of human genes.

Kate Ruane, ACLU senior legislative counsel, issued the following statement:

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“Human genes are not a commodity that should be controlled by any one corporation or person. This proposed bill operates under the guise of protecting innovation when in reality it will harm women’s health and attempt to overturn a landmark Supreme Court case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., that was instrumental in ensuring that nobody has a monopoly on genetic testing or research that advance medical care, and can be offered to patients and their families.

“The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that companies cannot patent human genes.  In Myriad, the Supreme Court held that a business cannot patent a gene because it is a product of nature. Congress should not upend years of settled law to grant corporations exclusive rights to examine our genes and hinder much-needed genetic research, testing, and treatments for a range of diseases.

“We stand in solidarity with cancer survivors, patients, their families, and everyone who could benefit from genetic discoveries. Allowing companies to lock up the building blocks of nature harms all of us.”

The draft legislation coalition letter can be found online here: https://www.aclu.org/letter/coalition-letter-opposing-draft-legislation-section-101-patent-law