STLR Link Roundup – October 19, 2013

Quest Diagnostics releases BRCA gene test and preemptively sues Myriad

Quest Diagnostics, Inc., one of the largest clinical laboratory companies worldwide, has released BRCAvantage, a diagnostic test for the cancer genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2.  The company initially announced its plans to introduce the tool this past June, immediately following the Supreme Court’s decision that isolated human genes are not patentable subject matter in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc.   The Court, however, upheld Myriad’s cDNA claims in its BRCA patents.  On October 10, a few days in advance of launching BRCAvantage, Quest Diagnostics filed suit in the Central District of California, seeking a declaratory judgment that it has not infringed any of Myriad’s patents.  Quest stated in its complaint that a pre-emptive suit was necessary given Myriad’s continued aggressive patent enforcement strategy against other medical diagnostic companies following the Supreme Court’s decision.  The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes at the center of the litigation are two breast cancer susceptibility genes that also contribute to an increased risk for ovarian and other cancers.  Although less than 10 percent of breast cancers are a result of BRCA mutations, if an individual tests positive for the mutations, she has an 85% chance of developing breast cancer and a 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer.   Knowledge of possessing the BRCA mutations can allow individuals to take successful preventative measures, such as the removal of breast tissue.  With the introduction of competition to BRCA diagnostics, it is anticipated that the price of screening will drop, increasing accessibility for those at risk.

A bad week for Samsung: a concession on the European front and more American sanctions

Samsung is offering to stop its European patent suits according to a statement by the European Commission.   The concession is designed to end an ongoing EU antitrust probe which could have resulted in a fine of $18.3 billion.  Specifically, Samsung promises a five year moratorium on seeking injunctions over its smart phone standard-essential patents as long as its rivals agree to a particular licensing scheme.  The Commission revealed Samsung’s offer as it seeks a public review of Samsung’s proposal.  The Commission initially launched an investigation into Samsung after Apple claimed it had been willing to license Samsung’s patents on fair terms, but Samsung refused.   Meanwhile in the US, Federal District Judge Lucy H. Koh has upheld a sanction by Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal requiring Samsung to produce information regarding its improper disclosure of Apple’s patent licensing agreements with Nokia and Ericsson during the earlier Apple v. Samsung litigation before Judge Koh.  A second hearing on the breach of confidentiality will be held on October 22.

European Union proposes increased privacy protection legislation in response to NSA spying

The EU will be considering legislation that requires tech companies to seek approval from EU officials before any private data from EU states may be transferred to the US.  The proposal is largely in response to continued European outrage over revelations of major tech companies’ facilitation of the NSA spying program.   Although there is significant popular support for increased data privacy, the amendment’s supporters acknowledge that they may be stymied by heavy lobbying by the US and tech companies.  In addition, it is uncertain how effective the law will be in practice; the bill still allows governments to bypass any EU rules on the basis of national security concerns.  The bill will go before the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties on October 21.

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