When federal judge Robert Sweet issued his controversial ruling invalidating the patents Myriad holds on BRCA1 and BRCA2, he noted his doubt that the decision would destroy the multibillion-dollar business that has been building up around the development of new tests and treatments inspired by genetic research.
But not all the experts are so sure.
University of Michigan law professor Rebecca S. Eisenberg told the New York Times that "It's really quite a dramatic holding that would have the effect of invalidating many, many patents on which the biotechnology industry has invested considerable money."
And a new patent case is headed for the Supreme Court also has the potential to rewrite the rules on patents. "We are still waiting, holding our breath for the Bilski case," Kari Stefansson, head of research at DeCode Genetics, tells the Times.
Writing in Fortune, David Ewing Duncan says this may be a good time to get creative in finding new ways to share and protect work in genetics and personalized medicine. "Arguably," he notes, "the endless controversies have actually slowed innovation: Investors hesitate to commit millions of dollars to developing new diagnostic tests and even drugs given the uncertainty over patents."