No one ‘owns’ the genome: The United States Supreme Court rules that human DNA cannot be patented

Eddie Hurter


Modern biotechnological innovation has been fertile ground for profound and critical debate – and policy consideration – regarding its associated legal, social, ethical and moral issues. Patent laws exist to encourage the progress of science, innovation and discovery, but battle to provide a clear and stable regulatory framework. In a decision that looks set to shape the future, the United States Supreme Court recently ruled that isolated human DNA cannot be patented. It is argued that this decision will have a potentially serious negative impact on future biotechnological innovation and discovery, and that the more expansive European approach to ‘gene patenting’ is sounder and enables progress. 

Author's affiliations

Eddie Hurter, Department of Mercantile Law, and the Special Interest Research Group on Biotechnology and Medical Law of the College of Law, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Gene patents; Biotechnology; Isolated human DNA; Myriad

Cite this article

South African Journal of Bioethics and Law 2013;6(2):52-54. DOI:10.7196/SAJBL.285

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-08-22
Date published: 2013-10-24

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