Posts Tagged American Civil Liberties Union
High court throws out human gene patents
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling allowinghuman genes to be patented, a topic of enormous interest to cancer researchers, patients and drug makers.
The court overturned patents belonging to Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Myriad’s BRACAnalysis test looks for mutations on the breast cancer predisposition gene, or BRCA. Those mutations are associated with much greater risks of breast and ovarian cancer.
The American Civil Liberties Union has been arguing that genes couldn’t be patented, a position taken by a district court judge but overturned on appeal.
The justices’ decision sends the case back down for a continuation of the battle between the scientists who believe that genes carrying the secrets of life should not be exploited for commercial gain and companies that argue that a patent is a reward for years of expensive research that moves science forward.
In 2010, a federal judge ruled that genes cannot be patented. U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA’s existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes.
But last year, a divided panel of the federal appeals court in Washington that handles patent cases reversed Sweet’s ruling. The appeals court said genes can be patented because the isolated DNA has a “markedly different chemical structure” from DNA within the body.
The Supreme Court threw out that decision, and sent the case back to the lower courts for rehearing. The high court said it sent the case back for rehearing because of its decision in another case last week saying that the laws of nature are unpatentable.
In that case, the court unanimously threw out patents on a Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease.
“The question before us is whether the claims do significantly more than simply describe these natural relations,” said Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the opinion in the Prometheus Laboratories case. “To put the matter more precisely, do the patent claims add enough to their statements of the correlations to allow the processes they describe to qualify as patent-eligible processes that apply natural law? We believe the answer to this question is no.”
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years.
Testing for mutations in the so-called BRCA genes has been around for just over a decade. Women with a faulty gene have a three to seven times greater risk of developing breast cancer and a higher risk of ovarian cancer.
Men can also carry a BRCA mutation, raising their risk of prostate, pancreatic and other types of cancer. The mutations are most common in people of eastern European Jewish descent.
Myriad Genetics Inc. sells the only BRCA gene test.
The case is Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, 11-725.
- High court throws out human gene patents (sfgate.com)
- Myriad’s Human-Gene Patent Rehearing Ordered by Supreme Court (pathologyblawg.com)
- High court throws out human gene patents – The Seattle Times (drugstoresource.wordpress.com)
- Gene Patents: AMP v. Myriad Genetics (patentlyo.com)
- Prometheus Decision a Harbinger for Myriad? (pathologyblawg.com)
- Supreme Court: Prometheus Decision a Harbinger for Myriad? (pharmexec.com)
- Supreme Court Rejects Key Biotech Patents (news.sciencemag.org)
- Supremes’ Prometheus Ruling Has Dire Consequences for Personalized Medicine (invivoblog.blogspot.com)
- US Supreme Court: Laws of nature are not patentable (h-online.com)
- Supreme Court Invalidates Prometheus Diagnostic Patents (pathologyblawg.com)
Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login? – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic
Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login?
FEB 19 2011
Update 2/22, 5:11pm: The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has suspended the practice of asking for Facebook login information for 45 days, according to an email they sent to The Atlantic. See our full story on the development.
The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up the cause of a Maryland man who was forced to cough up his Facebook password during a job interview with the Department of Corrections in that state.
According to an ACLU letter sent to the Maryland Department of Corrections, the organization requires that new applicants and those applying for recertifications give the government “their social media account usernames and personal passwords for use in employee background checks.”
The ACLU calls this policy “a frightening and illegal invasion of privacy” and I can’t say that I disagree. Keep in mind that this isn’t looking at what you’ve posted to a public Twitter account; the government agency here could look through private Facebook messages, which seems a lot like reading through your mail, paper or digital.
While it’s not surprising that some employers might want to snoop in your social media life, it strikes me as a remarkable misapprehension of what Facebook is to think that it should be wholly open for background investigations. Legally, things are probably more complex, but it seems commonsensical that carte blanche access to your communications should be off-limits.
The case also shows a downside to Facebook’s scale. It stands to reason that the bigger they get, the more that employers and others concerned with the age-old enterprise of covering their asses will feel the need to know what their employees are up to on the service. That alone isn’t going to derail the Facebook juggernaut, but it might slow down people’s engagement on the site as they realize maybe a private, unknown e-mail account is a better way of sending sensitive messages.
Here’s the Maryland man, Officer Robert Collins, describing what happened in his specific case:
<embed src=’http://www.aclu.org/swfobject/mediaplayer.swf’ height=’493′ width=’600′ allowscriptaccess=’always’ allowfullscreen=’true’ flashvars=”&bandwidth=5000&dock=false&file=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DbDaX5DTmbfY&image=http%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FbDaX5DTmbfY%2F0.jpg&level=0&plugins=viral-2d”/>Should Employers Be Allowed to Ask for Your Facebook Login? – Alexis Madrigal – Technology – The Atlantic.
- Alexis Madrigal: What is Pinterest and why should I care? – Some say the Next Big Thing (nextlevelofnews.com)
- Here’s Your Job Application. Now Give Us Your Facebook Password | Common Dreams (2012indyinfo.com)
- You No Longer Have a Right to Privacy (bigthink.com)
- How frictionless sharing could undermine your legal right to privacy (nextlevelofnews.com)
- The Fastest Adopted Gadget Isn’t What You Think [Gadgets] (gizmodo.com)
- Drudge is like a 1995 Ford Escort with a 500-horsepower advertising engine (nextlevelofnews.com)
- → Here’s the Number That Matters in Facebook’s IPO Filing (theatlantic.com)
- Would You Buy A Drone To Walk Your Child To School? (forbes.com)
- Senators Ask Feds to Investigate Facebook Employment Snooping Problem [Facebook] (gizmodo.com)
- Senators want ruling on whether Facebook password requests are illegal (arstechnica.com)