DNA testing company 23andMe has sued Ancestry.com for infringing a patent related to helping users find relatives.
23andMe filed its complaint at the US District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday, May 11.
Ancestry.com is a US-based online genealogy company which allows its users to trace their family history. According to the claim, the online company has infringed 23andMe’s “Finding relatives in a database” (8,463,554) patent.
The ‘554 patent determines a “relative relationship” between two individuals that share a common ancestor. The technology works by “looking at recombinable DNA sequence information, rather than [the] whole genome, of two individuals stored in a database”. It then determines the likelihood of the two individuals being related.
According to 23andMe, Ancestry.com is selling services to identify relatives that share parts of their DNA under the AncestryDNA kits. 23andMe alleged that this process infringes claims 5, 7-8, 12-14, 17, 22, 31-32 and 37-38 of its ‘544 patent.
Claim 7, for example, determines “the predicted degree of relationship between the first user and the second user” by identifying one or more “inheritance by descent” (IBD) regions. The predicted degree of relationship partly depends on the amount of DNA sequence information gathered by the IBD regions.
23andMe believes that Ancestry.com provides users with a confidence level of the predicted match based on the amount of DNA shared between individuals, a feature that allegedly infringes the patent.
“On information and belief, defendants also provide information about the amount of DNA shared between two individuals and the predicted degree of relationship based upon the amount of DNA,” said the claim.
23andMe has asked for a permanent injunction enjoining Ancestry.com from infringing the ‘554 patent and an award of damages.
This isn’t the first time that Ancestry.com has faced patent litigation. In February 2017, it agreed to pay $12.5 million to settle a patent infringement dispute, which also focused on DNA.
OraSure Technologies, the parent company of DNA Genotek, sued Ancestry.com over its kits for collecting saliva for DNA testing purposes. This process allegedly infringed OraSure Technologies’ US patent number 8,221,381 B2.
As part of the agreement, Ancestry.com was granted a royalty-bearing, non-exclusive worldwide licence to certain Genotek patents relating to the collecting of DNA in human saliva.