COVID-19 as an Example of Why Genomic Sequence Data Should Remain Patent Ineligible

Burris, S., de Guia, S., Gable, L., Levin, D.E., Parmet, W.E., Terry, N.P. (Eds.) (2021). COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future. Boston: Public Health Law Watch.

University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 432

5 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2021 Last revised: 20 Apr 2021

See all articles by Jorge L. Contreras

Jorge L. Contreras

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law

Date Written: February 15, 2021

Abstract

The researchers who determined the genomic sequence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus did not seek to patent it, but instead released it in the publicly-accessible GenBank data repository. Their release of this critical data enabled the scientific community to mobilize rapidly and conduct research on a range of diagnostic, vaccine, and therapeutic applications based on the viral RNA sequence. Had the researchers sought patent protection for their discovery, as earlier research teams had during the SARS, H1N1 and H5N1 outbreaks, global research relating to COVID-19 would have been less efficient and more costly. One of the reasons that patents are no longer sought on genomic sequences is the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., which established that a sequence of naturally-occurring nucleotides is an unpatentable “product of nature” (Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, 2013). Yet, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, patent advocates are calling on Congress to overturn the Myriad decision and once again allow patenting of genomic sequences. This Chapter argues that the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates why the “product of nature” exclusion under patent law, which prevents the patenting of genomic sequence data, should be preserved and strengthened under U.S. law. This paper was prepared as part of the COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future, a comprehensive report published by Public Health Law Watch in partnership with the de Beaumont Foundation and the American Public Health Association.

Suggested Citation

Contreras, Jorge L., COVID-19 as an Example of Why Genomic Sequence Data Should Remain Patent Ineligible (February 15, 2021). Burris, S., de Guia, S., Gable, L., Levin, D.E., Parmet, W.E., Terry, N.P. (Eds.) (2021). COVID-19 Policy Playbook: Legal Recommendations for a Safer, More Equitable Future. Boston: Public Health Law Watch., University of Utah College of Law Research Paper No. 432, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3808319

Jorge L. Contreras (Contact Author)

University of Utah - S.J. Quinney College of Law ( email )

383 S. University Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0730
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
155
Abstract Views
896
rank
258,432
PlumX Metrics