In this article about patenting genes author Rebecca Skloot writes:
Nearly a decade ago, surgical procedures were patented similarly to genes:if you went to the hospital needing, say, a certain kind of appendicitis surgery and your doctor hadn’t licensed the procedure, he couldn’t operate without risking a lawsuit. After one case successfully challenged that practice, the House of Representatives put a moratorium on patenting medical procedures and therapies.
A moratorium on patenting medical procedures and therapies? Really? Because unless I missed something major, patents on medical procedures continue to issue apace. Probably Skloot is referencing but badly misunderstanding Section 287 (c) of the Patent Act, which says in pertinent part:
With respect to a medical practitioner’s performance of a medical activity that constitutes an infringement under section 271(a) or (b) of this title, the provisions of sections 281, 283, 284, and 285 of this title shall not apply against the medical practitioner or against a related health care entity with respect to such medical activity.
This does not prevent anyone from obtaining a patent for a surgical or medical procedure, but rather constrains the way in which any resulting patent can be enforced against doctors and hospitals. Patent law is important to women, and I wish journalists would make more of an effort to understand it and report on it accurately.