Ramey & Browning was an event sponsor for the Texas A&M Patent and Innovation 2013 Awards Luncheon held Friday, April 26, 2013. The Luncheon was held at the George Bush Presidential Library on the A&M campus in College Station, Texas. The Patent Awards are given in recognition of individuals presently employed by The Texas A&M University System whose inventions were granted patent protection from the United States Patent and Trademark Office during the previous calendar year. Ramey & Browning was pleased to host a table where several researchers and Patent Award Recipients sat.
Bill Ramey of Ramey & Browning is riding in the BP MS-150, the largest fundraising event of its kind for the multiple sclerosis society. The ride is a two day, 180-mile journey for MS from Houston to Austin. The ride begins Saturday morning at three convenient starting points: Tully Stadium in Houston, Rhodes Stadium in Katy and Waller Stadium in Waller. Riders follow scenic roads into Bellville for lunch. Day One ends at the Fayette County Fairgrounds overnight in La Grange.
On Sunday morning Club 300 members lead the mass on one of two routes that lead to Bastrop Intermediate School for lunch from the fairgrounds. Take the Bechtel Challenge Route and enjoy the rolling terrain of Bastrop and Buescher State Parks or bypass the parks via the Pfizer Lunch Express Route. The final leg of Day Two takes riders into Austin for exciting Finish Line festivities at the capital.
Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics made its way to the Supreme Court this week as the court heard oral arguments. This is an important and closely watched case involving the patentability of human genes. Notably, the genes are not within the human body. Rather, the genes which have been patented by numerous biotechnical companies and research institutions are isolated human genes. In isolation, these genes do not possess the extraneous DNA within them as found in the human body.
More specifically, in this case, the University of Utah and Myriad Genetics own several patents covering methods of using a gene that correlates with early-onset breast cancer to test for that disease. The specific genes are known as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
It is already well established patent law that information classified as natural phenomena, such as discovering the process of photosynthesis cannot be patented. However, as discussed above, these genes have been isolated and changed from their natural location (within cells) and their natural state (with extraneous DNA). Thus, the crux of the issue is that even with isolation and extraction of these genes, the core of the patent claims involve natural phenomena – DNA sequences found naturally. Thus, a consortium of groups opposed to the patenting of genes chose to challenge these patents.
First, in the United States Supreme Court oral arguments, the justices focused on whether the isolated DNA sequences have a different function than the genes as they exist in nature. Justice Alito stated that “isolated DNA has a very different function from DNA as it exists in nature.” However, attorneys for the petitioners, Chris Hansen, proffered an analogy that “[i]f I find a new way of taking gold and making earrings out of it, that doesn’t entitle me to a patent on gold.”
Next, the court turned the focus to how Myriad and other biotechnology companies should be rewarded for the time and money spent developing these inventions. As Justice Scalia questioned “[w]hy would a company incur massive investment if it –if it cannot patent?”
We expect that the Supreme Court will hand down its decision within the next couple of months. Although it is somewhat difficult to determine whether the Supreme Court will decide that isolated gene sequences are patentable. We believe that, in reading the oral arguments, available here http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/12-398-amc7.pdf, the Court appears to be leaning in favor of making the distinction between isolated genes and genes as they exist in nature. More importantly, the Court appears reluctant to remove the financial incentive of biotechnology companies to conduct expensive and time consuming research to identify and isolate gene sequences. On the other hand, should the court decide against the patentability of isolated genes, we expect that methods of using such isolated genes will not be impacted by the Court’s decision. However, depending on the breadth of the Court’s decision, it may affect companies outside of the biotechnology arena who are researching and developing other products derived from natural sources. Thus, in our opinion, claims directed to both the isolated product derived from a natural source and methods of using the product are essential in any well drafted patent application.
Bill Ramey is judging at the Rice Business Pan Competition from April 10, 2013 through April 12, 2013. The Rice University Business Plan Competition is the world’s richest and largest graduate-level business plan competition. It is hosted and organized by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, which is Rice University’s flagship initiative devoted to the support of entrepreneurship, and the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business. This is the 13th year for the competition. In that time, it has grown from nine teams competing for $10,000 in prize money in 2001, to 42 teams from around the world competing for more than $1.3 million in cash and prizes.
In 2012, more than 1200 applications were submitted. More than 130 corporate and private sponsors support the business plan competition. Venture capitalists and other investors from around the country volunteer their time to judge the competition, with the majority of the 250+ judges coming from the investment sector. 128 past competitors have gone on to successfully launch their businesses and are still in business today, raising in excess of $460 million in funding.
Bill Ramey is teaching a class at Texas A&M on Monday, April 8, 2013. The class, Intellectual Property for the Entrepreneur, is in Room 107 at the Mays Business School. Bill teaches this class every semester for Texas A&M’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship. Ramey & Browning, PLLC is a full-service IP Law Firm located in the Museum District, just outside of downtown Houston.
Ramey & Browning is pleased to sponsor the 14th Annual ACC Golf/Spa CLE held at the Houstonian on April 5, 2013. The Houston Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC Houston) will hold its 14th Annual Golf/Spa Retreat at The Houstonian Hotel and Wild Cat Golf Club, both of which are new venues for this event that we are very excited about. “Golf/Spa”, as it has come to be known, is ACC Houston’s premier event which many local in-house counsel, outside counsel, and vendor sponsors look forward to participating in every year. The day’s activities include an entertaining 2-hour ethics presentation (for in-house counsel and our sponsors’ golfers and spa participants), lunch, a day of golf or spa treatments, and an evening reception with prizes and awards.
Ramey & Browning is pleased to sponsor the Ol’Army Cycling Team for the BP MS 150 taking place on April 20-21, 2013. The annual Houston-to-Austin BP MS 150 is the largest fundraising ride of its kind, supporting research and vital services for men, women and children living with multiple sclerosis.