The debate over whether genetically modified organisms should be patentable has been raging for many decades. In the United States, the general rule is that raw natural material is not patentable subject matter and therefore such applications are rejected by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 1980, the United States Supreme Court clarified this rule by stating that as long as the organism is truly "man-made," such as through genetic engineering, then it may be patentable. Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 447 U.S. 303 (1980). Since 1980, it has been the rule that if a DNA product is isolated and purified (or modified) then it may qualify as patentable subject matter and be eligible for patent protection. The debate over whether to allow genes to be patentable continued last week when the U.S. Justice Department took a position on the issue that was contrary to the past 30 years of legal precedent.
To learn more about this development, click here.