Supreme Court Limits Patents: No Natural Laws

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On Tuesday, the supreme court unanimously ruled that they would not allow inventors or corporations to patent discoveries based on "laws of nature". The decision came out of an application by Nestle S.A. unit Prometheus Laboratories Inc. that involved a method which allowed physicians to regulate dosages on medication for patients with Crohn’s disease.

Essentially, they wouldn't allow the methods to be patented because protecting the discoveries would limit further innovation in the field of medicine and other fields where naturally occurring phenomenon dictate the need for advancement. Simply put, protecting one method makes it damn near impossible for better methods to surface and become new standard practices.

Law Blog published a comment from James Myers, an attorney from Ropes & Gray who commented on the case:

“In life sciences there is the process of understanding what to do. It often requires an immense amount of money in research and development, statistical analysis, clinical trials — once you know what to do, how you do it might be very straightforward,”

“So if you can’t protect the acquisition of the knowledge that is then used to give individualized treatment, you’ve got a pretty big problem.”

So, the counter argument here is that if you can't compensate researchers and corporations for their medical advancement, than this is going to hurt their livelihood. Without protecting their discoveries, others are free to move in and profit off of the groundwork laid by others. I think this is important.

Unfortunately this is the case a lot of times in the medical industry and even many others. Sometimes the overall community benefits rather than the individual. It's too bad this happens, but it doesn't mean the world should have to stifle creativity because it would help line a few people's pockets.

I agree with the supreme court's the decision to reject the application to patent the method. Invention shouldn't belong only to those who can afford to do so. Patents should protect certain intellectual properties, not close off a field of study and rule out future advancement.

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