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Fact Check-2013 U.S. Supreme Court judgement did not rule that people inoculated with mRNA vaccines are no longer human

A 2013 Supreme Court ruling is being misunderstood by social media users, with some citing it as proof that those who are inoculated with an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine can be patented and are no longer human.

Users shared a post on social media that reads: “The US Supreme Court ruled that vaccinated people around the world are now “products”, or patented goods, and are no longer human under US law. By vaccinating with modified DNA or RNA, a person ceases to be a human and becomes the property of the patentee of the mRNA vaccine. Their genome is no longer human, but “trans-human”, a category that does not exist in human rights. The characteristics of the natural man and all rights that result from them are lost. This applies to the whole country.”

Users cited the 2013 Supreme Court ruling ‘Association for Molecular Pathology et al. v Myriad Genetics, inc., et al.’ as proof of the claim.

The ruling prohibited patents on naturally occurring human genes but allowed legal protections on synthetically produced genetic material (here). The judgement can be seen (archive.is/wip/T9GE5).

Examples of the claim online can be seen (here), (here), (here), (here).

“The Myriad case concerns cells in a laboratory setting. It has nothing to do with cells when they are in someone’s body. And it has nothing to do with human beings,” Robin Feldman, Arthur J. Goldberg Distinguished Professor of Law at University of California Hastings told Reuters.

The Supreme Court judgement pertains to a ruling that came in response to a challenge launched by medical researchers and others to seven patents that were owned by or licensed to Myriad Genetics Inc on two genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer (here).

The Court ruled that synthetically created complementary DNA (cDNA) is patentable, while isolated natural DNA is not (here).

A memorandum issued on June 13, 2013, related to the case, is also viewable (here).

The claim that the judgement causes those injected with an mRNA vaccine to no longer be human and open to being patented is “utterly absurd, wholly apart from misunderstanding how these vaccines work (they are not akin to gene therapies that modify somatic cells)---in the Myriad decision, SCOTUS dramatically narrowed the patentability of gene patents unconnected to use in humans, and the outputs (e.g. a cured CF patient) of therapeutic applications are even more clearly unpatentable subject matter,” Professor Lars Noah, Chesterfield Smith Eminent Scholar, University of Florida Levin College of Law, told Reuters.

Meanwhile, “being injected with a patented vaccine doesn’t extend the patent to the recipient any more than getting a patented heart stent or pacemaker,” Jorge Contreras, Presidential Scholar and Professor of Law Director, Program on Intellectual Property Law & Policy at the University of Utah, and author of ‘The Genome Defense’ (genomedefense.org/), a book about the Myriad Genetics case, told Reuters.

The U.S. Patent Act also “expressly prohibits patenting human organisms,” Contreras added (here). Section 33(a) of the 2011 Leahy-Smith America Invents Act states: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no patent may issue on a claim directed to or encompassing a human organism” (here).

VERDICT

False. A 2013 Supreme Court judgement did not find that people inoculated with an mRNA vaccine are no longer human and can be patented. The ruling found that isolated naturally occurring nucleic acid could not be patentable, but non-naturally occurring nucleic acids, such as cDNA, can be eligible.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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