Before the iPad came out, Amazon sold all e-books for $9.99. Then in preparation for the iPad’s release, Apple held discussions with five major publishers to encourage them to tell Amazon that it wanted a higher price on its e-books. Emboldened by Apple’s support, the publishers threatened not to sell books to Amazon unless they could get a higher price. Amazon felt forced to raise prices. The result was higher prices for e-books, whether bought from Apple or Amazon. The publishers had previously settled charges by the Department of Justice that they had violated antitrust law. A trial will now be held to determine damages owed by Apple.
Read more here.
The Supreme Court ruled that ordinary DNA cannot be patented, although synthesized (that is, altered) DNA can be. This case involved Myriad Genetics which had controlled the so-called Angelina Jolie test which determines if a woman has a gene that dramatically increases her risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Because of Myriad’s monopoly, it could charge thousands of dollars for the test, which meant that many women could not afford it if their insurance company refused to pay. Myriad argues, however, that without patent protection, companies will do less genetic research. The jury is still out on that argument. And many commentators feel that the right to patent synthesized DNA will be sufficient to encourage research. Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics 2013 U.S. Lexis 4540
In a long-awaited and important case, the Supreme Court ruled that human genes are not patentable. The ruling came in a case involving Myriad Genetics, which had patented the Angelina Jolie gene — the one that indicates if a woman has a much higher risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For almost 20 years, every woman wanting to have this test had to buy it from Myriad at a cost of thousands of dollars. If her insurance did not cover it, she either paid personally or went without. And, as a result of this ruling, any risk has been removed that patent holders will challenge whole genome sequencing. However, this ruling does permit patents for synthetic DNA — that is, genes to which something has been done.
Read an article about this issue here.
A 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court said that a DNA sample is just like fingerprints and can be taken from anyone arrested for a serious crime. The dissenters said that taking DNA is a huge invasion of privacy. A sample is not used to identify the suspect but rather to search for evidence of other crimes. For that, they argued, the police should obtain a warrant. Also, in theory, police can only take a sample after an arrest for a “serious” crime, but they fear that soon DNA samples will become a standard part of any arrest.
Should a DNA sample be a standard part of any arrest? If you are an innocent person, would you care?
Read more about this issue here.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation is not prohibited by federal statute. However, 21 states and roughly 170 cities and counties have banned it.
The full article is here.
Two executives of a Japanese auto parts manufacturer have pleaded guilty to price-fixing and will serve at least 15 months in a federal prison. Their employer, Denso, has agreed to pay a fine of $78 million. Price-fixing: so tempting and yet so dangerous.
Read the full report here.
The Fourth Amendment provides a fundamental protection against unreasonable searches by the police. The difficulty is in deciding what’s unreasonable. The Supreme Court ruled that Missouri police cannot routinely take a blood sample from someone suspected of drunk driving. The problem is that the court did not explain when, exactly, the police can demand a blood test. This kind of decision is all too common from this Supreme Court. It decides that there was wrongdoing in the particular case before it, but does not establish a set of rules for future cases, which inevitably leads to case by case decision-making until rules develop by default. C’mon, just tell us what the rule is!
It is hard to hurt some peoples’ feelings. Last year, at 41 companies, more than half the shareholders withheld their vote from some of the company’s directors. Untroubled by this vote of no confidence, all of these directors stayed on the boards. What does a shareholder have to do to affect the makeup of a board?
For a longer article about this issue, read here.
Administrative Law: Court requires FDA to permit the sale of the “morning after pill” over the counter to all ages
A federal judge overturned the FDA’s rule that required girls under age 17 to have a prescription for buying Plan B, a morning after pill. Courts generally give great deference to the decisions of administrative agencies, but here the judge ruled that the FDA’s rules were “arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable”. Further, said the court, Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, had made the decision for political, not scientific reasons. The FDA must now remove any age restrictions on the sale of Plan B.
Read the judge’s order here.
What is the cost to society when women and minorities are discriminated against? Professors from Stanford and the University of Chicago have attempted to answer this question. They estimate that 15 to 20% of the growth in productivity in the U.S. between 1960 and 2008 was owing to the expanded employment opportunities for women and minorities. Productivity would be even higher (10 to 15%) if all employment discrimination ended.