Patent Reform Plunged Into Deep Freeze

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Patent reform is a big deal in California, and not just to Silicon Valley tech companies. Any company that makes money off a patented idea or technology is keenly interested in what happens at the federal level – or doesn’t. 

“This news is devastating to the welfare of startups who will continue to face the threat of patent trolls.”

Senator Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Judiciary Committee, has taken the patent reform bill off the agenda, lamenting in a statement the various industries that rely on patents could not come to terms “on how to combat the scourge of patent trolls.”

“I have said all along that we needed broad bipartisan support to get a bill through the Senate. Regrettably, competing companies on both sides of this issue refused to come to agreement on how to achieve that goal.” Continue reading

Supreme Court Seems Skeptical of Patenting Human Genes

SCOTUS_SupremeCourtIn arguments at the Supreme Court Monday, justices appeared skeptical about patenting human genes.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been granting parents on human genes for nearly 30 years. This is the first case questioning that premise to reach the Supreme Court. At the heart of the case are two genes associated with breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA 2. People with certain mutations in these genes have a significantly higher risk for breast, ovarian and other cancers.

Opponents of patenting human genes say genes are products of nature and therefore cannot be patented. Myriad Genetics, which holds the patent on the genes, say that once genes are isolated from the body and processed they are no longer a product of nature.

The Associated Press captured the back and forth:

Justices attempted to break the argument down to an everyday level by discussing things like chocolate chip cookies, baseball bats and jungle plants.

[Gregory A.] Castanias, the Myriad lawyer, argued that the justices could think about the gene question like a baseball bat. “A baseball bat doesn’t exist until it’s isolated from a tree. But that’s still the product of human invention to decide where to begin the bat and where to end the bat,” he said.

That didn’t work for Chief Justice John Roberts. Continue reading