The courts have ruled that human genes themselves cannot be given a patent, however artificially copied DNA (cDNA) can be claimed on the grounds of intellectual property. Obviously DNA cannot be physically owned as it originates from a natural source, so no-one technically has rights to it, as it belongs to everyone equally. In contrast, cDNA has the ability to be patented as it does not occur naturally.
There have been grumbles from the biotechnological industry; they believe that a ban like this has the ability to affect any investments in gene therapies and research opportunities. (I guess that gene technology has a lot of money in it.)
This ruling has been a long time coming, having first started in 2009 with the question of whether companies should have the right to patent genes. However Universities and medical research firms have had the right to hold intellectual property over human genes for the past 30 years!
So in a nutshell:
- DNA--> can't be patented
- cDNA--> can be patented
Explorer fact: around 40% of the human genome is already patented.