Patents have been awarded on human genes for decades, but until last week, no one had directly challenged the underlying idea that genes can be owned in a U.S. court. Now, a challenge has begun. With donated legal help, a group of patients, doctors, and research professionals sued in New York City on 12 May to invalidate perhaps the most famous gene patents: those on BRCA1 and BRCA2, genes associated with risk for breast and ovarian cancer. The main argument in last week's legal filing in Manhattan's federal court is that BRCA1 and -2 are "products of nature" and should never have been patented. The suit names 12 defendants, including the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), for allowing the patents, and Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City for running a patent-protected gene testing monopoly.
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