You can't patent a piece of the human genome, the Supreme Court declared in a unanimous decision in June. So why, in the weeks after, did Myriad Genetics — the company whose patents were voided — sue a competitor for patent infringement for testing for the very gene declared unpatentable by the Court?
Some background: In the case, the Association for Molecular Pathology brought suit against Myriad because it thought it one company shouldn't have the sole rights to a segment of the human genome — especially when that segment indicates a person's breast-cancer risk. The organization argued that Myriad's monopoly of testing for the malignant variants of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes plugged up innovation in the science and drove up costs for patients. Those with a certain variant of these genes have a 60 percent likelihood of developing breast cancer. If you recall, the actress Angelina Jolie discovered she was a carrier for the gene, which prompted her to undergo a double mastectomy to void the risk.
The Supreme Court largely agreed with the Association for Molecular Pathology, declaring slices of the naturally occurring human genome unfit for patents. And right after the decision, two companies — Ambry Genetics and Gene By Gene — saw an opening to start offering the breast-cancer screening tests that Myriad had been performing. And then Myriad sued ... for patent infringement.