US Supreme Court rules isolated DNA not patentable

Article  \  14 Jun 2013

In a much anticipated but somewhat unsurprising decision, the US Supreme Court has effectively and unanimously held that isolated DNA is not patentable subject matter.

In a brief decision, the Court stated "[a] naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated".

cDNA, on the other hand, was found to be patent eligible subject matter "because it is not naturally occurring", and so "does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring, isolated DNA segments."

The flow on effect of this decision is potentially wide sweeping. Extending the Court's reasoning, it may be that the patentability of other naturally occurring and unmodified products that were previously patent eligible, such as proteins, microorganisms, and chemical compounds, will be called into question in the United States.

What the full impact of this decision in the United States is, and what impact it has in other jurisdictions where the patent eligibility of DNA sequence has been at issue, remains to be seen. As always, we'll keep you informed.