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Judge rules DNA is unpatentable because it is INFORMATION not extracted chemicals

Judge Robert W. Sweet has turned the biotech patent industry into turmoil.

See: After Patent on Genes Is Invalidated, Taking Stock By ANDREW POLLACK, March 30, 2010

Although patents are not granted on things found in nature, the DNA being patented had long been considered a chemical that was isolated from, and different from, what was found in nature.

But Judge Sweet ruled that the distinguishing feature of DNA is its information content, its conveyance of the genetic code. And in that regard, he wrote, the isolated DNA “is not markedly different from native DNA as it exists in nature.” . . .
Professor Eisenberg said “there isn’t a whole lot of doctrinal support” for considering DNA as information rather than as a chemical. . . .
There is thriving competition in such areas as testing for mutations that cause cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease, even though no one company has exclusivity.

Fascinating that until now, patents have been issued by considering DNA as “chemicals” rather than “information”. (Hmm. wonder where that came from.)
But if DNA is legally “information”, what are the consequences to other fields? As in Education?
If DNA is “information”, where did it come from?

Evolution? But how can the four forces of nature generate “information” from stochastic processes?
Do I hear any novel theories coming to the rescue?

Panspermia? But doesn’t that just displace the origin by a few million or billion years?

Does “uncommon descent” have anything to do with it?

See also:

Judge Invalidates Human Gene Patent By JOHN SCHWARTZ and ANDREW POLLACK March 29, 2010, NYT

See Judge Robert W. Sweet’s 152 page ruling in Association for Molecular Pathology et al. v. US Patent & Trademark Office, 1:09-cv-04515-RWS Doc. 255.

How does one legally define “DNA” as “information”?

Judge Sweet opined:

“DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information, distinct in its essential characteristics from any other chemical found in nature. It is concluded that DNA’s existence in an “isolated” form alters neither this fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body, nor the information it encodes. Therefore, the patents at issue directed to “isolated DNA” containing sequences found in nature are unsustainable as a matter of law and are deemed unpatentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Similarly, because comparisons of DNA sequences are abstract mental processes, they also constitute unpatentable subject matter under § 101. ” pg 3, 4

If this is overturned, I could see a basis for arguing that the comparisons are useful processes, not just “abstract mental processes.”

It is also fascinating that comparing DNA sequences are “mental processes”.

PS Does being able to read 152 pages of patent ruling addressing “information” qualify one as being “intelligent”? If so, does writing that 152 page ruling make Judge Sweet an “intelligent agent”?

PPS Wonder how long it would take a legion of monkeys to reproduce Judge Sweet’s ruling using stochastic processes?

——————————————-

The original title was: “Patent Judge rules DNA is INFORMATION not chemicals” implicitly referring to its patentability. To remove some misunderstandings below on DNA remaining chemicals, I changed the title to:

“Judge rules DNA is unpatentable because it is INFORMATION not extracted chemicals”. Also added: “Judge Sweet opined:” and blocked his quote.

Barry Arrington clarifies and provides a larger quote at: Judge Rules DNA is Unique Because it Carries Functional Information

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14 Responses to Judge rules DNA is unpatentable because it is INFORMATION not extracted chemicals

  1. I think you have to read the judgment again. There was no finding that DNA is ‘information’ and ‘chemical’. I mean, it is really very hard to understand how you could misread the ruling in such a way and then build your post around it, even to the point that you write the word information in BOLD in your headline.

    DNA was before the ruling a chemical and after the ruling it was still a chemical. It was ruled that the distinguishing feature of DNA is its information content (and not what you claimed).

    And, of course, that is utterly uncontroversial. Or did you find anybody who claimed that DNA does not have an information content?

  2. Or did you find anybody who claimed that DNA does not have an information content?

    Philip Kitcher, for one, denies that there is teleosemantic (i.e. specified) information in DNA.

  3. One small step for science, one huge step against materialism.

  4. This new article by Casey Luskin in Salvo Magazine is related to the topic:

    Every Bit Digital
    DNA’s Programming Really Bugs Some ID Critics
    http://www.salvomag.com/new/ar.....uskin2.php

    root page here:

    Two Articles Defending Stephen Meyer and Signature in the Cell in Salvo Magazine
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2......html#more

  5. Re #2: If I understand correctly, I asked for information, not ‘teleosemantic (i.e. specified) information’.

    And, of course, I should have qualified my statement. Philip Kitcher is a philosopher. I am sure if you look hard enough, you will find people, who don’t think DNA is important at all. Some might even challenge the existence of DNA itself.

    What I mean are ‘biologists’. Do you think there are biologists (people who study and research biology) who don’t believe that there is information content in DNA?

  6. Re #4:

    One small step for science, one huge step against materialism.

    How so? That would mean that the ruling invalidates something that is widely believed by materialists. What is it? Can you give an example?

  7. What a bizarre reading of the ruling. You take a ruling that has nothing to do with ID and twist it so it’s a victory for ID. Is this typical of arguments for ID?

    The key issue in the ruling has to do with DNA as occuring “in nature.” In traditional patent law, patentable things must meet three tests: they must be (1) useful, (2), non obvious, and (3) non-natural. So if a plant has a non-obvious medicinal use, you can’t just pluck that plant and patent it.

    The question in DNA patents is whether DNA has been manipulated, taken out of nature, in order to make it patentable. In recent years, patent protection has been extended to genes by arguments such as that because the DNA in question is isolated from the body, it is no longer occuring “in nature.” The judge, however, ruled that what is useful about these genes is precisely their function in nature.

    I trust that the arugment of this post is based on a misundertanding of the reading rather than bad faith.

  8. hrun0815 @ 5:

    If I understand correctly, I asked for information, not ‘teleosemantic (i.e. specified) information’.

    You have to specify what you mean by ‘information’ though. There are two different notions. There is 1) Shannon information, which measures the quantity of information, and 2) Teleosemantic information, which measures the quality of information.

    The article above is talking about patenting information, and since no-one wants to patent mere gibberish (no matter how much of it there is), it must be referring to teleosemantic information. This is why my comment about Philip Kitcher not accepting the existence of teleosemantic information in DNA was relevant. It shows that the Judge’s decision is not “utterly uncontroversial”.

    You went on to say:

    What I mean are ‘biologists’. Do you think there are biologists (people who study and research biology) who don’t believe that there is information content in DNA?

    Again, it depends what you mean by ‘information’. In the sense implied in the article (the teleosemantic sense), biologists certainly talk as if this sort of information exists, since they use phrases like “genetic error” – and an “error” only makes sense if DNA carries teleosemantic information. So I’d say that yes, most biologists tacitly assume that DNA is teleosemantic.

    But it is still controversial amonsgt philosophers – i.e. those who have reflected on the issue more deeply and see the implications of teleosemantic information content.

  9. hrun0815 at 1

    “I think you have to read the judgment again. There was no finding that DNA is ‘information’ and ‘chemical’.”

    Please read the quotes I provided. The issue is not that DNA is both Information and chemicals, but that before patent law, isolating DNA does not make it patentable because of its unique nature of information. The judge ruled:

    “DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information, distinct in its essential characteristics from any other chemical found in nature. It is concluded that DNA’s existence in an “isolated” form alters neither this fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body, nor the information it encodes. Therefore, the patents at issue directed to “isolated DNA” containing sequences found in nature are unsustainable as a matter of law and are deemed unpatentable subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

    I was trying to compactly say that, for patentability the Judge changed previous rulings based on DNA being considered like chemicals and instead changed to DNA being considered for its information content. To clarify I have changed to title to explicitly refer to patentability.

    Composer at 7

    What a bizarre reading of the ruling. You take a ruling that has nothing to do with ID and twist it so it’s a victory for ID. Is this typical of arguments for ID?

    The key change is the legal patentability status of DNA, (not whether biologists consider it information or chemicals.) This gives the force of law recognizing that: “DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information”.

  10. You can see the lower court ruling at:
    ASSOCIATION FOR MOLECULAR PATHOLOGY, ET AL. Plaintiffs,
    v.
    UNITED STATES PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE, ET AL., Defendants.
    No. 09 Civ. 4515.

    United States District Court, S.D. New York.November 2, 2009.

  11. There must be 20-30 threads on this site in the last couple years where the anti ID people denied that DNA contained information. They kept on demanding a definition of information and would try to skewer every attempt to provide one (there are literally hundreds of definitions.) So a staple of the anti ID people is that there is no information in DNA. An obvious absurdity but something to which several anti ID people have gone to wall to defend.

    Once you admit that DNA contains information, the argument then turns to how it arose and changed over time. Then the materialist is in a bind because the only answer that makes sense is that it is directed by an intelligence as natural processes have never exhibited the capability to do so. That is what we have been debating here for the four plus years I have been here.

    The whole debate is over the origin of information. So now we have a legal opinion that DNA contains information. Maybe we can dismiss the anti ID know nothings that populate this site and deny there is any.

  12. DLH,

    The key change is the legal patentability status of DNA, (not whether biologists consider it information or chemicals.) This gives the force of law recognizing that: “DNA represents the physical embodiment of biological information”.

    Well of course it does for the purposes of patent law. That’s what I said. It still has nothing to do with ID.

    jerry, that’s interesting. You know the history better than I do. Could you dig up an instance or two? I can’t imagine why an anti-ID person would make that claim.

  13. composer

    Well of course it does for the purposes of patent law. That’s what I said. It still has nothing to do with ID.

    By that argument, evolution has nothing to do with education!?

    Green notes Shannon information and Teloesemantic information.
    Shannon information in just bandwith capacity info and insufficient to characterize DNA.

  14. “I can’t imagine why an anti-ID person would make that claim.”

    Let me explain why they would make such a claim. ID claims that some DNA is FCSI or functionally complex specified information. That is it is

    functional, complex, specified and information.

    Leaving aside DNA, nowhere in the universe does FCSI exist except in the output of an intelligence. Two clear examples are language and computer programming. Nature does not produce FCSI, only intelligences do. So when we also have FSCI in DNA, the question then becomes what is the origin of this information. Is this the only example in the universe where natural processes have produced FCSI or does it have another origin. ID says the most likely answer is intelligence but this is abhorrent to the materialist. So it must be attacked or discredited anyway it can.

    The frequent attacks here have been to dispute that it is information or to confuse the issue by saying that there is no clear definition of information and therefore this attempt to define it as information is not a valid concept. They will say that no one uses the term FCSI so it is an ID concoction and one that no one in science takes seriously. But the FCSI in DNA is nothing more than the transcription/translation process and one that science takes very seriously.

    If you look at any of the threads that discuss the term CSI and there is probably over a hundred in the last couple years, you will find the desperate attempts to undermine these ideas anyway they can. The term CSI can be very confusing but the subset of it, FCSI, is crystal clear and an obvious threat to the materialist. Here are a couple threads.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-308450

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-302866

    They are long but you might want to search for FCSI or information and see what people say. I haven’t time to go searching for all of them. See if you want to join the club that questions the information in DNA and its unique nature. Once you admit it is a specific type of information, you are on your way to supporting ID so be careful. The evolution debate is not about the origin of species but the origin of FCSI.

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