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Gene Patent Discussion Should Include Industrial, Environmental, & Ag Biotech

June 14, 2012
Twenty-three industrial and agricultural biotech companies, ranging from development-stage businesses to all of the largest players in the field, sent a letter to the Solicitor General expressing concern over the pending appeal in the Myriad “gene patents” case.  The companies wrote the letter to correct the myopic view that this case is only about human genetic diagnostics. The case could potentially adversely impact agricultural and industrial biotechnology, whose activities are far removed from the clinical diagnostic testing context in which the case is commonly discussed.

“Visceral and unsubstantiated objections to human ‘gene patents’ should not be grounds for wholesale revision of an area of patent law that has long been settled,” write the companies. “Unless some wider context is added, the very essence of what is patentable in our field of biotechnology will be jeopardized.”
“The ability to secure patents is essential in ours, as in any industry required to continually push the limits of innovation, in order to compete domestically and in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. Industrial, environmental, food, and agricultural biotechnology companies spend tens, sometimes hundreds, of millions of dollars developing their technologies based upon investment horizons ranging from 5-20 years. Those companies require a high degree of certainty that their investments will generate a reasonable return over such vastly varying time-frames.

The past several years have heralded great changes to patent law as our nation seeks to ensure that its patent system keeps pace and remains competitive with the patent systems of other countries. Biotechnology companies, like companies in many fields, have continued to pursue innovation despite the economic tumult of the last several years and the uncertainty produced by changes to the laws under which they operate. Throughout this time, the patentability of their innovations was never as uncertain as it is in light of the AMP and Mayo cases. Orderly development of the law is necessary in order to avoid years of delay and uncertainty over what is and is not patentable by companies in our industry. Providing such direction will help our companies grow and innovate while also growing the US economy and providing millions of jobs in the decades ahead. We ask that you carefully consider these implications as you develop the position of the US Government in the pending remand of the AMP case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. We also urge you to seek input from a broad range of other stakeholders whose existence is likewise predicated upon their ability to operate under the protection of patents.”

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