Doctors File in Court to Defend Patents for Medical Research


Today the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) files an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of patents for genetic and other medical research, including isolated BRCA genes, which are important risk factors in breast and ovarian cancer. The incentives created by such patents are essential to encourage medical innovation that saves patients’ lives, and AAPS urges the Supreme Court not to exclude research on genes from patentability in Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., Sup. Ct. No. 12-398.

Patents, like other forms of private property, are essential to progress. Valuable cures are being developed based on patents in many medical fields, including adult stem cells— cures that would not be possible without the incentives established by patents.

This Supreme Court case, however, has become a sweeping attempt by the ACLU, the American Medical Association (AMA), and the Obama Administration to invalidate property rights for much medical innovation. AAPS urges the Court to limit its inquiry to the narrow claims in this case, rather than using it as a means to exclude vast areas of medical research from patent protection.

The U.S. Constitution places the power to determine what is patentable in the hands of Congress. The Separation of Powers doctrine should prevent the judiciary from creating a broad exception to congressional power by legislating from the bench.

The patent claims refer to specific isolated sequences of DNA. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (“PTO”) has issued rules and published examination procedures regarding the patenting of DNA sequences, and has granted numerous patents for such sequences.

While AAPS supports innovation in medicine, others want the Court to rule on the broad hypothetical question of whether a “human gene” is patentable. But such a broad, unjustified ruling would have implications far beyond the instant case. General policy questions are properly decided by Congress, not by courts, which are constitutionally empowered only to decide cases in controversy.

To attract the capital needed for developing new technology, there must be a means to recoup the investment. The property rights conferred through patents provide the needed incentive. Opponents of this property right overstate their objections, because it is limited both in time and scope.

AAPS and individual physicians who joined its amicus brief today “oppose categorical judicial exclusion of certain medical inventions from patentability because that will result in fewer advances for patients.”

Without patents, there would be no smart phones or any of the other marvels of modern technology. Medical innovations benefit just as much from patents. They are a basic form of property rights. AAPS asks the Supreme Court to reject the attack on private property in medical research by the AMA, the ACLU, and others in this case.

AAPS, which was founded in 1943, is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties.

AAPS Amicus – Ass’n for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.

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