Sen. Chris Coons, on June 4, participated in the first of three public hearings, featuring 45 witnesses, to discuss issues with current patent eligibility law and potential legislative solutions at a hearing entitled “The State of Patent Eligibility in America: Part I.”
Additional hearings on the subject were set for June 5 and 11.
“We have had a lot of stakeholders describe to us across different contexts in recent years that the issue before us today of patent eligibility, of the interpretation and application of Section 101 of the patent section of our U.S. code is a key factor in eroding America’s long-perceived status as having the gold standard for patent protection,” said Coons. “Recent decisions of the Supreme Court over a decade have clouded the waters regarding exactly what types of inventions merit protection, even if these inventions are groundbreaking, revolutionary and useful.”
“We have released a draft proposal to facilitate that discussion. I want to emphasize today that is not a final bill. We recognize that many of the witnesses that we’ve invited will question or challenge or disagree with that frame, or even with the need for legislation in the first place. That’s exactly the point of a hearing — it’s not to confirm that we have crafted the perfect answer, but to test whether it is workable and to consider alternatives,” said Coons.
“I also want to be very clear on one thing, given a significantly misleading article in The Washington Post today. Our proposal would not change the law to allow a company to patent a gene as it exists in the human body. I believe I speak for the chairman and myself when we say we do not intend to overrule that holding of the 2013 Myriad decision, which establishes that genes, as they exist in nature, are not eligible for patent protection, nor would we support a bill that restricts medical advances already in the public domain. The Myriad decision itself drew lines between eligible and ineligible genetic material and we hope this process will facilitate a conversation about where to draw the line about how much human intervention in diagnostics and personalized medical treatments are required to achieve patent eligibility,” said Coons.