Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics - Oral Argument - April 15, 2013

Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics

Media for Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 13, 2013 in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 15, 2013 in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument first this morning in Case 12-398, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.--

Mr. Hansen?

Christopher A. Hansen:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

One way to address the question presented by this case is what exactly did Myriad invent?

And the answer is nothing.

Myriad unlocked the secrets of two human genes.

These are genes that correlate with an increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

But the genes themselves, their -- where they start and stop, what they do, what they are made of, and what happens when they go wrong are all decisions that were made by nature, not by Myriad.

Now, Myriad deserves credit for having unlocked these secrets.

Myriad does not deserve a patent for it.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Mr. Hansen, Respondents say that isolating or extracting natural products, that has long been considered patentable, and give -- examples were aspirin and whooping cough vaccine.

How is this different from -- those start with natural -- natural products.

Christopher A. Hansen:

Well, in -- in essence, Your Honor, everything starts with a natural product.

And this Court has said repeatedly that just extracting a natural product is insufficient.

For example, this Court has used the example of gold.

You can't patent gold because it's a natural product.

The examples that you cite all involve further manipulation of a product of nature, so that the product of nature is no longer what it was in nature; it's become something different, and in many instances has taken on a new function.

But--

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Do you dispute that you can patent, however, a process for extracting naturally-occurring things?

Christopher A. Hansen:

--Of course.

I think that is totally acceptable.

And what's interesting in this case is, the process that Myriad uses to extract the genes is not at issue in this case.

It's a process that's used by geneticists every day all over this country.

It is routine, conventional science.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

So isn't that -- why isn't that a way to in effect have patent protection for the product?

Does somebody who wants to use the product, the DNA -- extracted DNA in this case have to find a new process from -- to extract it if they want to have it available?

Christopher A. Hansen:

Well, the -- the process by which it's extracted is now very routine.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Oh, no -- yes, I know.

I'm assuming it isn't, that they discover this process and it leads to a -- a particular product.

Does anybody who wants to use the product either have to get a license for the process or find a different way of extracting it?