On June 13 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics (Myriad) which essentially upheld the patent eligibility of claims reciting cDNA molecules encoding BRCA proteins, but struck down as patent ineligible claims encompassing isolated fragments of BRCA-encoding genomic DNA. Unfortunately, as a consequence of the manner in which the case was decided Myriad will in all likelihood only serve to increase the ambiguity and uncertainty plaguing the U. S. patent system. Clearly, the mere isolation of a naturally occurring biomolecule is no longer sufficient to confer patent eligibility on the isolated product, regardless of how useful, nonobvious or inventive the isolated product is relative to the prior art. What is less clear is the patent eligibility status of a synthetic molecule that shares a common, or highly similar, structure with a naturally occurring biomolecule.
I have written an article that addresses some of the ambiguities created by the Myriad decision, and the practical implications for patenting in the life sciences arena. The article, which appears in Biotechnology Law Report, is available here for the interested reader.