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Wiley Rein Files Amicus Brief for Nobel Laureate James D. Watson in Widely Watched Human Gene Patent Case

July 24, 2012

An amicus brief filed by Appellate and Litigation attorney Matthew J. Dowd and Patent Group chair James H. Wallace Jr. on behalf of James D. Watson—Nobel Prize winner and co-discoverer of the structure of DNA—has been widely discussed in leading technical and science journals.  Dr. Watson's brief argues in Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, et al. that patents on genes should not be granted.

In 1953, Dr. Watson and the late Francis Crick revealed to the world the correct structure of DNA.  For their discovery, Watson and Crick were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.  Since that time, Dr. Watson has remained at the forefront of DNA research.  He was a professor at Harvard University, the Director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health.  Currently, Dr. Watson is Chancellor Emeritus of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  Dr. Watson has long been opposed to the patenting of human genes. 

A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC is considering whether to invalidate patents on breast cancer genes owned by Myriad Genetics Inc.  A district court previously held that Myriad's patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes were invalid because they claim "products of nature."  In a 2-1 decision, the Federal Circuit reversed, but in March the Supreme Court vacated this ruling and ordered the appeals court to reconsider the case.

Dr. Watson's brief explained that "DNA's importance flows from its ability to encode and transmit the instructions for creating humans. Life's instructions ought not be controlled by legal monopolies created at the whim of Congress or the courts." 

Additional coverage can be found in Slate and Science magazine.

The brief can be read here.


For more information, please contact Patricia M. O'Connell at 202.719.4532 or poconnell@wileyrein.com.


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Patricia O'Connell
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1776 K Street NW
202.719.4532
poconnell@wileyrein.com




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