Genetic testing patent dispute 23andme v.

Genetic testing patent dispute 23andme v.

A patent is a set of exclusive right related to an invention, granted to the inventor of the invention.  To be granted a patent in the United States an inventor must submit a patent application to the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office.  The patent application must demonstrate that the invention meets certain requirements.  The patent application must demonstrate that the invention is useful, new and not obvious.  If the United States Patent and Trademark Office grants the patent, then the inventor is granted the exclusive right to make, use and sell the invention in the Untied States for a period of time.  If someone other than the patent owner makes, uses or sells a patented invention in the United States before the patent has expired, that is considered patent infringement.  A patent owner can sue to stop patent infringement with an injunction and the patent owner can sue to recover damages for the patent infringement.

Genetics is a field of science which is growing rapidly.  Genes are complex molecules which instruct cells how to reproduce.  The study of genes gives doctors insight into how livings things work.  Studying the genes of a person can reveal many things about a person, like how tall they will grow, what color their eyes are, and what diseases they might suffer in the future.

While genetics has serious medical applications, there are some applications for entertainment.  Genes are passed down from parents to children.  Some companies have created large databases of genetic material and geographically grouped certain genetic traits by collecting genetic samples of people from around the planet.  Customers of these companies will submit their own genetic samples, submit the sample to the company and get a report of where in the world the customer’s ancestors have come from.  If a distant relative of the customer has also submitted genetic material to the company, than those relatives will appear on the report also.

Two companies which offer genetic testing for entertainment purposes are and 23andMe.  Ancestry started as a database for historical genealogy information gathered from public records in 1983. But, after 23andMe offered a genealogical gene testing product in 2007, Ancestry developed its own product. Both companies offer competing genealogical products which tell customers where their ancestors came from. By 2017, Ancestry’s product sales has eclipsed 23andMe’s sales.  Ancestry claims to have approximately 10 million customers for its gene testing service, and 23andMe claims to have approximately 5 million customers.

On May 11th 2018, in the District Court for the Northern District of California, 23andMe recently sued Ancestory for patent infringement 23andMe, Inc. v. DNA, LLC et al, 3:18-cv-02791 (2018).  In its complaint, 23andMe claims that Ancestory is infringing on US patent No. 8,463,554 which relates to finding relatives in a database.  The 554 patent describes a method of analyzing “identical by descent” regions of the genome and determining the degree to which two people in a database are related.

It is important to note that 23andMe is not claiming a patent on genes, but because genes are something which cannot be patented.  Instead 23andMe’s patent relates to organizing genetic information in a database in a way which recreates more accurate results.

Ancestory has not responded to the lawsuit yet, but it will be given the opportunity to answer.   Whomever wins this lawsuit would come out on top in the genealogical gene testing market.

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