Planet Earth

The GIF of genomics

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanAug 17, 2012 9:36 AM


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As you may know the interminable Myriad genetics patents case has been making waves in the courts, most recently with mixed results as to whether their patents on several specific genetic diagnostics are valid. This aspect needs to be highlighted:

One of the three deciding judges, William Bryson, dissents in part from the majority opinion, arguing that Myriad's claims to the BRCA gene and gene fragments are not valid. He writes that he feared that if the majority opinion stands, it "will likely have broad consequences, such as preempting methods for whole-genome sequencing."

This is legalistic hyperbole. If "gene patents" become so ridiculous that whole-genome sequencing becomes unfeasible then the system of intellectual property is going to come crashing down. And whole-genome (and exome) sequencing is not that far off. The Myriad case feels so 2002 to me. It reminds me of another instance where the sluggishness of the legal process was such that the dispute became a moot point because of the march of technological history: the GIF. A particular company owned the rights to the GIF's compression technique. But over the years the GIF became a marginal format, and the controversy just faded away.

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