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The practice of patenting genes, which had largely faded from the headlines, has suddenly attracted a swarm of critics. The blitz includes an op-ed article in The New York Times by best-selling-novelist-turned-patent-gadfly Michael Crichton, a torrent of posts and comments on patent law blogs, and a disturbingly sweeping piece of intellectual property legislation.

The first salvo, introduced in the House of Representatives in early February, was bill H.R. 977, the “Genomic Research and Accessibility Act.” The bill would insert a change in the U.S. patent code which reads, in its entirety: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no patent may be obtained for a nucleotide sequence, or its functions or correlations, or the naturally occurring products it specifies.”

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