As noted in my last “flash” post, a divided three-judge Fed. Cir. panel (Judges Lourie, Bryson and Moore) issued an opinion holding that the isolated DNA sequences and the drug-screening method claimed by Myriad are patentable subject matter, not natural phenomena, while affirming that the diagnostic method claims which only involve “comparing” or “analyzing” DNA sequences fail the M&T test and are no more than abstract ideas. The one hundred-plus pages of opinion spent only about five pages on the “diagnostic” method claims. Since I previously commented on their vulnerability following both Bilski and the proposed PTO Guidelines, I will not offer much analysis here, except to note that Judge Lourie took care to distinguish the transformative elements of the claims at issue in the Prometheus decision from the minimalist Myriad method claims. See slip op. at 52-53. See, e.g. my post of Oct. 29, 2010 on the Myriad method claims.
My summary of the panel’s holding above reflects the opinions authored by Lourie and Moore, who agreed on all of these points. Judge Bryson agreed on the cDNA claims and the method claims, but would have found the claims to isolated naturally occurring “genes” and gene fragments patent-ineligible. Essentially, he bought the Government’s “magic microscope’ argument that if you can “see” the sequence in the chromosome (or otherwise in its natural setting), isolation of the sequence does not afford anything “materially different from the native genes. In this respect, the genes are analogous to the ‘new mineral discovered in the earth,’ or the ‘new plant found in the wild’ that the [S. Ct.] referred to in Chakrabarty. It may be very difficult to extract [them]. But that does not make them the products of invention.”