Laws of Nature and Natural Phenomena: Gene Patents, the Biotech Industry and Access to Healthcare
In Helena Zaugg and Lea Schläpfer (eds), Recht und Gesundheit (Zürich: Schulthess) 155-181
Posted: 16 Oct 2017
Date Written: 2013
On 20 March 2012, the US Supreme Court handed down Mayo vs. Prometheus, a decision holding that laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable subject matter (or not “inventions”). The judgement clarified the precarious boundary between laws of nature and patent-eligible methods. As a result, a case relating to gene-related materials (Myriad) was remanded back to the Federal Circuit to re-determine the distinction between natural products and patentable products. In Myriad, the Federal Circuit upheld the patentability of genes and genetic sequences. This chapter addresses the effect that the Myriad decision could have on the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and on the balance between inciting invention and publication thereof against ensuring public access and further innovation. In doing so, it will analyse whether the ruling is ultimately better for the public good with respect to the development of and access to medicine, or whether it could potentially stifle the research and development of new pharmaceuticals and therapies.
Keywords: gene patents, laws of nature, natural phenomena, biotechnology
JEL Classification: K11, K33, K39
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation