By Donald Zuhn --
In a press release issued earlier this month, MPEG LA, LLC announced that it was launching an initiative to enhance the availability of gene patents for diagnostic testing. MPEG LA, which describes itself as the world's leading packager of patent pools for standards and other technology platforms, would accomplish this objective by creating a new gene patent pool. Currently, MPEG LA has formed patent pools for MPEG-2, ATSC, AVC/H.264, VC-1, MPEG-4 Visual, MPEG-2 Systems, 1394, and MPEG-4 Systems, so the company would be venturing outside of consumer electronics-related pools for the first time in creating the gene patent pool.
MPEG LA notes that it neither owns nor uses the patents in its pools, but rather seeks to create markets for patents that maximize profits for the patent holders and make utilization of patents affordable for manufacturers, consumers, and other users. According to the company's press release, the new gene patent initiative will address "the market's need for nonexclusive access to patents for diagnostic genetics tests leading to personalized medical solutions that save lives and reduce healthcare costs." While MPEG LA President and CEO Larry Horn described diagnostic genetics testing as "hold[ing] great promise as a driver of precision therapy," he noted that patent thickets and restrictive licensing arrangements threaten the delivery of such tests. Pointing to the recent decision in Association for Molecular Pathology vs. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Mr. Horn contended that a solution that "balances social cost and open access with innovation incentive" was needed.
MPEG believes that by aggregating patent rights for existing and emerging tests that may lead to personalized treatment for diseases and disorders such as hereditary hearing loss in infants, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease, and Lynch syndrome, and licensing these patents nonexclusively for diagnostic use, it can assist laboratories, testing companies and researchers in obtaining the rights they need to design comprehensive diagnostic genetics tests, and as a result, make such tests widely available through multiple channels at affordable prices.