Patent Law Expert to Speak on Whether Human Genes Are Patentable March 5


Professor Dan L. Burk, from University of California, Irvine School of Law, will visit The University of Akron School of Law on Tuesday, March 5 at 3 p.m. as part of the annual Albert and Vern Oldham Intellectual Property Law lecture series. The lecture, which is free and open to the public, will take place at Akron Law, 150 University Ave., Room 152. One hour of free continuing legal education credit will be offered, and a reception will immediately follow the lecture.

Burk’s lecture, titled “The Nature of Patentable Subject Matter,” will address the question of whether human genes patentable. On Nov. 30, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., agreeing to hear arguments on the single question “Are human genes patentable?” The Myriad case is the third in a series of recent subject matter cases heard by the Court, ranging across software, biotechnology, and medical diagnostics. Although many of the DNA molecules at issue in Myriad were constructed in the labora­tory, opponents of DNA patenting have argued that such molecules do not meet the test for patentable subject matter if the they can ever be found occurring, if perhaps rarely or un­expectedly, in human cells. This approach to patentable subject matter is a variation on the “inherency” doctrine from patent law’s novelty requirement: when an invention is present but unappreciated or inaccessible in the prior art, it is said to be inherent. In novelty cases, the inherency question has been decided on whether the public was receiving the benefit of the invention before the inventor made it explicitly available. Although it is not at all clear that inherency should be imported into the subject matter inquiry at all, if it is, the standard of public benefit should be similarly decisive.

Burk is an internationally prominent authority on legal and social issues related to high technology, whose research encompasses the areas of patent, copyright, electronic commerce, and biotechnology law. Some of his most recent work has considered the statutory “policy levers” used by courts to apply patent incentives to industries with diverse innovation profiles, as well as the effect of intellectual property rights on the structure of firms and of industries.

Although this is a free event, registration is still required. To register, please visit, call 330-972-7988 or email

The Albert and Vern Oldham Intellectual Property Law Endowment Fund was established at the Akron Law by Edwin W. “Ned” Oldham, senior partner at the former Oldham & Oldham Co., L.P.A., now Hahn Loeser + Parks, Akron. Albert and Vern Oldham founded Oldham & Oldham, a patent law firm, in 1947. The fund is devoted to furthering the Akron Law’s mission in the area of intellectual property law. Ned Oldham sought to strengthen the teaching of patent, copyright and trademark law at the school and to focus on the importance of innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit that drives continued growth, progress and excellence in our community and nation.

The University of Akron School of Law promotes justice, the protection of individual liberty and the rule of law through commitment to excellence in teaching, scholarship and service. The law school features a nationally-recognized program in intellectual property, as well as one of four Constitutional Law Centers in the United States. To learn more, visit