On Thursday 13 June, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a firm ruling: "A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated." In contrast, complementary DNA, because it is synthesized by man, may be patented "because it is not naturally occurring."
The biotechnology company Myriad Genetics had claimed ownership of two genes "whose hereditary mutations considerably increase the risk of developing cancer of the breast and the ovaries," and for which it had taken out nine patents. But according to a certain number of doctors, researchers and women who had contracted these cancers, "the monopoly of Myriad prevented the development of other medical tests and hindered fundamental research." In his ruling, Judge Clarence Thomas stated that the biotechnology company had "discovered an important and necessary gene but discoveries, however revolutionary, innovative and brilliant they may be, are not eligible under patent law." He added: "The laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are fundamental tools of scientific and technological work and cannot be eligible for the protection of patents."