Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Artificially produced natural products, SCOTUS in the Nineteenth Century got it right

H/T to Douglas Rogers who dared speak reason at IPWatchdog regarding the Myriad case, and who referenced an interesting Supreme Court case from 1884 -

Cochrane v. Badische Anilin & Soda Fabrik - 111 U.S. 293 (1884)

That case involved a challenge to a patent on an artificially produced chemical otherwise found in nature, and stated in relevant part:

"There is another view of the case. According to the description in No. 95,465, and in No. 4,321, and the evidence, the article produced by the process described was the alizarine of madder, having the chemical formula C14H8O4. It was an old article. While a new process for producing it was patentable, the product itself could not be patented, even though it was a product made artificially for the first time, in contradistinction to being eliminated from the madder root. Calling it artificial alizarine did not make it a new composition of matter, and patentable as such, by reason of its having been prepared artificially, for the first time, from anthracine, if it was set forth as alizarine, a well known substance. Wood Paper Patent, 23 Wall. 566, 90 U. S. 593."

By this reasoning, those who argue that O2, when artificially produced, is suddenly not a product of nature, and thus patent-eligible under Sec 101 are simply wrong. O2 is not new, we didn't design it. Nor are the strings of nucleotides claimed in the Myriad case, despite those who allege the claims encompass "new molecules." As we have noted here before, what makes a gene a gene is its part in producing proteins, the mechanism of which is coded into the gene with stop and promoter codons. Isolating that gene from its surrounding substrate, the genome as a whole, does nothing to make it a new "molecule." Unlike other molecules, the role and use of a gene is informational, and nothing done while isolating the gene from the surrounding genome alters its informational role, we simply use the information for a new purpose. It is mere sophistry to allege this creates a new thing worthy of protection under patent.

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