The United States Patent Office issued Patent No. 5,087,571 to Philip Leder and Timothy Stewart for a “method for providing a cell culture from a transgenic non-human mammal.” This patent was one of the very first U.S. patents directed to an animal. The abstract states that the invention is directed to a “transgenic non-human eukaryotic animal whose germ cells and somatic cells contain an activated oncogene sequence introduced into the animal . . . at an embryonic stage.”
The patent application was filed on March 22, 1988 and issued on February 11, 1992. The patent application was a divisional application of an earlier filed patent application; the divisional application was filed on June 22, 1984. The patent was assigned to Harvard College of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Two relatively simple claims issued in this patent. The first claim recites a “method of providing a cell culture comprising . . . a transgenic non-human mammal, all of whose germ cells and somatic cells contain a recombinant activated oncogene sequence introduced into said mammal . . . at an embryonic stage . . . and . . . culturing one or more of said somatic cells.” I am not sure what is meant by “culturing” somatic cells, but the claim seems quite broad.
The second claim recites a “cell” which is derived from the recited method. Thus, this issued patent successfully claimed a cell of an animal. Time will tell if this line of patenting will persist or whether a court or Congress will establish a limit on biological entities as patentable subject matter.