Myriad has been able to charge about $3,300 for its genetic-based tests for breast cancer, although the company notes that insurance covers most patients. Other scientists, meanwhile, have been limited in their ability to work with the genes.
Intellectual property attorney Vernon Winters, who is with the San Francisco Bay Area offices of the Sidley Austin law firm, stressed that the court's decision is limited in that it doesn't disturb "method claims for manipulating genes or DNA" or "claims for new and specific applications for DNA sequences, as opposed to the isolated sequences themselves."
Barbara Rudolph, an intellectual property attorney in the Washington office of the Finnegan law firm, said in an interview that it was "hard to predict" how the decision would play out for companies and inventors, though she suggested that it was "a winner" for biotech firms that specialized in lab-synthesized cDNA, which remained patent eligible. Rudolph added that the court sought to balance whether patents serve as an incentive or an impediment to invention.
Underscoring the scientific complications of the case, Justice Antonin Scalia issued a one-paragraph concurring opinion in which he noted the "fine details of molecular biology" in the court's decision.
"I am unable to affirm those details on my own knowledge or even my own belief," Scalia said.
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