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It’s All Relative: Federal Circuit Upholds Invalidity of 23andMe’s Genetic Ancestry Testing Patent For Claiming a Rule of Nature

23andMe, Inc. v. DNA, LLC et al., Appeal No. 2019-1222 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 9, 2020)

The Federal Circuit has denied a petition for rehearing en banc brought by 23andMe, leaving in place the court’s earlier ruling on October 4, 2019, that the company’s patent, which describes a method for identifying the degree of relationship between two individuals based on their DNA samples, was invalid for claiming a rule of nature.

23andMe’s patent, U.S. Patent No. 8,463,554 (“Finding relatives in a database”), covers a method of comparing two individuals’ recombinable DNA sequence information—rather than the whole genome—in order to determine a relative relationship. According to 23andMe, the ‘554 patent explains that only relatives will share long stretches of genome regions where their recombinable DNA is completely or nearly identical. 23andMe sued Ancestry in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, alleging that it was infringing the ‘554 patent with its AncestryDNA kits, which feature services to identify relatives who share parts of their DNA.

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