In considering whether human genes may be patented the Justices of the Supreme Court searched near and far for analogies to help them grasp the complexities of bio-science. Here are a few sketches from the oral arguments along with a few choice quotes.
Justice Sotomayor : “I can bake a chocolate chip cookie using natural ingredients – salt, flour, eggs, butter … And if I combust those in some new way, I can get a patent on that. But I can’t imagine getting a patent on the basic items …”
Justice Alito : “To get back to your baseball bat example, which at least I can understand better than perhaps some of this biochemistry. I suppose that in … I don’t know how many millions of years trees have been around, but in all of that time possibly someplace a branch has fallen off a tree …. into the ocean and it’s been manipulated by the waves, and then something’s been washed up on shore, and what do you know, it’s a baseball bat.”
Justice Breyer : “… so when Captain Ferno goes to the Amazon and discovers fifty new types of plants, saps and medicines …. although that expedition was expensive, although nobody had found it before, he can’t get a patent on the thing itself.”
SCOTUSblog’s Lyle Denniston has the argument recap here.