WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) -- The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments Monday in a case brought against a Utah-based molecular diagnostic company over its attempt to patent a pair of genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

The case, Association for Molecular Pathology et al. v. Myriad Genetics Inc. et al., has the potential to create a new standard over whether patents can be issued for genetic material found in nature.

Myriad faces claims that its patents on genes BRCA1 and BRCA2 violate intellectual property law, as well as the First Amendment.

It is the first patent case ever brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which joined plaintiff AMP.

According to its website, AMP is an international medical professional association dedicated to the "advancement, practice, and science of clinical molecular laboratory medicine and translational research based on the applications of molecular biology, genetics and genomics."

The nation's high court has already heard the particulars of Myriad, having remanded it a year ago to the federal circuit, which reaffirmed its previous support for the patents.

Opponents argue that patenting human genes or other naturally occurring genetic material could have a chilling effect on scientific research. Myriad has already threatened academic research institutions with litigation.

But the company's supporters contend it is more about a process, and point to many patented procedures that work exclusively with natural materials.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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