Can You Patent Your DNA?
Deep inside of you, there is something that potentially has great value to the outside world, which you may not even be aware had such value: your DNA. Much like your contact information which has value when data lists are purchased by marketing companies, your DNA has similar value to companies that are not only seeking to market to people, but also for the purposes of scientific research and study.
Giving Away Your DNA Data
Most commercial DNA testing companies require your consent to use your DNA. The prevailing thought is that you are only licensing your DNA information to these companies, not giving it away (although you should read the fine print to make sure that’s true with any company you use).
But the question implies that you own your own DNA, and have rights to it, and in fact you do. Can you profit from it? The DNA companies are making good money from DNA obtained from customers who consent to allow their DNA to be used for testing and research.
In response, some entrepreneurs are creating online clearinghouses where people can voluntarily upload their DNA or DNA results, in return for cryptocurrency.
Of course, privacy concerns arise from these clearinghouses. Without adequate protections on the data uploaded to any databases, DNA information could be misused. Privacy experts worry that your DNA could be sold, much like your credit is now, to potential employers or creditors to see if you have any unique health issues.
What About Unique DNA?
But what if you have particularly special genes? What if you have DNA so different or unique that it can cure an illness, or lead to a medical breakthrough? Can you patent your own DNA the way you can an invention?
DNA patents could mean big money. If a company has a patent on a specific type of DNA related to a certain kind of cancer, it would be the only company that could do gene testing for that cancer.
It used to be the case that you could patent your DNA, and there were thousands of people who indeed did.
Then the Supreme Court stepped in and said that because DNA is a product of nature, it cannot be patented, thus eliminating all pre-existing patents on DNA. The Court did say that DNA that is manipulated or altered in a lab, or which is synthetic, could be patented because that is no longer purely a product of nature.
You Still Own Your DNA
This does not mean that you don’t own your own DNA. You do, and have a right to protect it (or sell it). It just means that if your DNA has something unique to it that has value, if you allow others to do so, they can use it to develop drugs or tests or use it to derive any other kind of value.
Do you have questions about intellectual property? Contact Tampa business and commercial law attorney David Toback to review your rights.