Amy Goldsmith has been a fan favorite among Intellectual Property faculty at Lawline. In her most recent course entitled “Yours, Mine, and Ours: The U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Genetic Patents”, Ms. Goldsmith presents on the June Supreme Court ruling against the patentability of “products of nature” (namely, in this case, genes). This was the case made famous by actress Angelina Jolie, who had a double mastectomy as a result of a genetic test that indicated a high risk of breast cancer. The genes involved in that test, BRCA-1 and BRCA-2, are the focus of this SCOTUS case and hold significant implications for women’s health, research, and the biotech industry.
The case is a complex one for many to understand because of the combination of scientific and legal issues associated with patenting DNA sequences. One must have, at the very least, a basic understanding of the science of DNA in order to grasp what the SCOTUS ruling was even talking about, as well as an understanding of the legal implications of that ruling on the healthcare industry, biotechnology companies, etc.
The Supreme Court ruled that certain aspects of genetics can be patented. Known as “composite DNA,” a gene that retains the exons but strips out the introns is not a product of nature, according to SCOTUS, and is therefore patentable. However, naturally occurring DNA sequences are considered "products of nature" and are not patentable.
Ms. Goldsmith provides viewers with clarity in this complex and confusing ruling, and guides them to analyze the reasons for the decision and the impact it will have on the future of science, medicine, and the law. For those who are interested in science, this course uniquely ties together scientific research and the law in an interesting, enjoyable, and educational way. For those who are not so keen on science but are all about current events, the course is exciting because of its direct link to recent news stories related to women’s health. It’s a definite must-see!
For more background information about this case and the BRCA genes, check out Michele’s recent post here!