The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that products based on naturally occurring DNA can’t be patented.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that products based on naturally occurring DNA can’t be patented.

Nathan Nelson/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

End of the road for Myriad gene patent fight

The molecular diagnostics company Myriad Genetics has put an end to a long battle to defend controversial patents on genetic tests for cancer risk. Several of the companies Myriad was suing for patent infringement announced settlements this week, and The New York Times reports that the company is in discussions to settle the remaining suits.

In a high-profile 2013 decision, the Supreme Court invalidated many of Myriad’s key patents by declaring human genes to be unpatentable products of nature. But as other companies began to develop and market competing genetic tests, Myriad sued several of them, claiming that certain patents had not been invalidated by the decision. Myriad’s targets included the firms LabCorp, Ambry Genetics, and Quest Diagnostics.

But last March, a federal district court in Utah rejected Myriad’s request for an injunction blocking Ambry from selling its test. And last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., upheld that decision, apparently dealing a final blow by affirming that the patents were not valid.

Kevin Noonan, a biotechnology patent lawyer and writer for the blog Patent Docs, described Myriad’s move to settle the litigation as an end to the “series of cases that changed the landscape for biotechnology patenting,” adding, “It is hard for even an evenhanded observer not to be tempted to ask, ‘Are you happy now, Myriad?’ ”