Harvard College v. Canada (Commissioner of Patents)
Supreme Court of Canada
4 S.C.R. 45 (2002)
The President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard) (plaintiff) submitted a patent application for an oncomouse, a genetically altered rodent with increased susceptibility to cancer, rendering it useful for research. The patent application described the process by which a cancer-promoting gene (oncogene) is injected into fertilized mouse eggs and implanted into a host mouse. Offspring of the host mouse are tested for the oncogene and later used for cancer research. Harvard intended to patent both the process of producing oncomice and the oncomice produced from the genetic alteration. Harvard also extended the patent claims to cover all non-human mammals. The Patent Examiner rejected the patent, concluding that higher life forms are outside the definition of “invention” in § 2 of the Patent Act of 1985 (Act), and therefore are not patentable subject matter. The Commissioner of Patents and Trial Division of the Federal Circuit affirmed the Patent Examiner’s decision, but the Federal Court of Appeal overturned. On appeal, Harvard contended that the language of the Act should be read broadly in light of the Act’s goal of encouraging innovation. Harvard also asserted that because lower life forms like bacteria and yeast fit within the definition of “invention,” higher life forms should not be excluded, as the Act does not make any distinctions based on the complexity of the subject matter.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Bastarache, J.)
Dissent (Binnie, J.)
What to do next…
Unlock this case brief with a free (no-commitment) trial membership of Quimbee.
You’ll be in good company: Quimbee is one of the most widely used and trusted sites for law students, serving more than 724,000 law students since 2011. Some law schools—such as Yale, Berkeley, and Northwestern—even subscribe directly to Quimbee for all their law students.Unlock this case briefRead our student testimonials
Learn more about Quimbee’s unique (and proven) approach to achieving great grades at law school.
Quimbee is a company hell-bent on one thing: helping you get an “A” in every course you take in law school, so you can graduate at the top of your class and get a high-paying law job. We’re not just a study aid for law students; we’re the study aid for law students.Learn about our approachRead more about Quimbee
Here's why 724,000 law students have relied on our case briefs:
- Written by law professors and practitioners, not other law students. 45,600 briefs, keyed to 983 casebooks. Top-notch customer support.
- The right amount of information, includes the facts, issues, rule of law, holding and reasoning, and any concurrences and dissents.
- Access in your classes, works on your mobile and tablet. Massive library of related video lessons and high quality multiple-choice questions.
- Easy to use, uniform format for every case brief. Written in plain English, not in legalese. Our briefs summarize and simplify; they don’t just repeat the court’s language.