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No, facts of nature are still not patentable [08 Apr 2010|01:09pm]

I was incoherently trying to explain this heartening decision to friends over the weekend. Professor Moglen's article does it much better than my hand-waving. Dan Ravicher and PUBPAT continue to do amazing and important work, and as an ACLU member I'm glad to see them involved as well.


The Public Patent Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the patent on the ground that the Act does not permit the patenting of "facts of nature." In a lengthy and carefully argued opinion granting summary judgment, Judge Robert Sweet agreed. Judge Sweet rejected the basic premise on which gene testing patents such as the one granted to Myriad have been justified: that the amplification of naturally-occurring DNA sequences is a patentable transformation of the DNA molecule. Instead, Judge Sweet adopted the view put forward by Myriad's own expert witnesses, that DNA is a special molecule, "a physical carrier of information," and therefore held that the reading of such naturally-occurring information is not patentable subject matter. Whether posed as a new composition of matter, or as a method for "analyzing" or "comparing" DNA sequences, Judge Sweet held, Myriad's attempt to gain a monopoly on looking at a particular DNA sequence to find out what it says falls outside the permissible scope of patent law.

The full opinion is at http://www.pubpat.org/assets/files/brca/brcasjgranted.pdf.

And see the FSF's End Software Patents campaign.

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Thomas and the Tea Party [08 Apr 2010|02:05pm]

I understand this is not the only case of this sort of potential conflict of interest with a judge/Justice and his/her spouse, but this seems like a problem to me. Clarence Thomas's wife is running a "tea party" group.

Justice's wife launches 'tea party' group


Because of a recent Supreme Court decision, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the group may also spend corporate money freely to advocate for or against candidates for office.

Justice Thomas was part of the 5-4 majority in that case.

Does Mrs. Thomas draw a salary from this organization? Is that salary funded by donations?

Oh, but don't worry, Justice Thomas is so squeaky clean he won't even come listen to the President speak:

Justice Thomas, 61, recently expressed sensitivity to such concerns, telling law students in Florida that he doesn't attend the State of the Union because it is "so partisan."

Except for maybe that time he helped Bush steal the election:

In 2000, while at the Heritage Foundation, [Virginia Thomas] was recruiting staff for a possible George W. Bush administration as her husband was hearing the case that would decide the election. When journalists reported her work, Thomas said she saw no conflict of interest and that she rarely discussed court matters with her husband.

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