Tudor Luchian

Biotech feels a chill from changing U.S. patent rules

Kelly is a staff writer at Science.

A year after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling that human genes cannot be patented, the biotech industry is struggling to adapt to a landscape in which inventions derived from nature are increasingly hard to patent. At the Biotechnology Industry Organization's International Convention here last week, attorneys and executives traded stories of recent, unexpected rejections by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, whose new guidelines for deciding what is patent-eligible have drawn heavy criticism. Biotech representatives fear that applying the Supreme Court's precedent beyond DNA—to products such as chemical compounds, antibodies, seeds, and vaccines—could chill efforts to commercialize scientific discoveries made at universities and companies.

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