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Genome Patent Case Hits Australian Federal Court

US-based Cargill Inc. and Branhaven LLC are causing quite the stir with their recent application for a patent related to the bovine genome in Australia.

The patent, according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), is essentially a “bid to patent general discoveries of nature in beef and dairy cattle research,” specifically as it relates to “Compositions, methods and systems for inferring bovine traits” and selection methods.  In response to IP Australia’s recent approval, MLA has challenged the application in Federal Court, claiming it could significantly impact the industry by discouraging research and decreasing farm productivity, among other things.

In a landmark ruling back in 2015, the Federal Court of Australia unanimously decided that human genes cannot be patented in a case involving Myriad Genetic Inc’s BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes.  Myriad’s patents covering these particular genes, associated with an increased hereditary risk for breast cancer, had been protected under patent since the 1990s, a decision that was finally overturned on the basis that “the invention claimed did not fall within the concept of a manner of manufacture.”

In the U.S, the Supreme Court ruled on the issue back in 2013, unanimously deciding that isolated human genes cannot be patented.  Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the court, simply stating that, “Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them.”

The Cargill/Branhaven patent case will likely see court proceeding in early 2017.