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Federal judge hears Utah case on genes patents

NEW YORK — Lawyers challenging the rights of a company to hold patents on two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer have told a New York judge that the patents are stalling important research.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation asked federal Judge Robert Sweet in Manhattan Tuesday to rule the patents invalid. He did not immediately rule.

But attorney Brian Poissant said Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation have a right to the patents. He said to disallow the patents would wreck the foundation of the entire biotechnology industry and said court precedent is on their side.

U.S. government attorneys have defended the patents, saying the groups do not have the right to even challenge them.