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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Business briefs: Patent ruling in favor of Paw Print Genetics

A federal judge in Minnesota ruled last week that routine genetic testing for dogs, like that for humans, can’t be patented. The ruling was celebrated by Spokane-based Paw Print Genetics, a laboratory that tests for genetic diseases in dogs.

Paw Print had asked the court to decide on the matter after another lab claimed the Spokane company infringed on its patent. At issue is a genetic test for a disorder called exercise-induced collapse, which both labs offer.

U.S. District Judge John Tunheim found that the patent held by Canine EIC Genetics, of St. Paul, Minnesota, is invalid because it’s “directed at a natural law and because it does not introduce any additional inventive concept beyond well-understood, routine, and conventional methods for determining whether the EIC mutation exists in a dog.” That lab is affiliated with the University of Minnesota.

That follows recent cases before the U.S. Supreme Court evaluating patents on genetic tests for humans. Tunheim noted that the test of whether a genetic mutation is protected by patent laws “is analyzed the same way, irrespective of whether that test is used on humans or dogs.”

Lisa Shaffer, founder and CEO of Paw Print Genetics, said the ruling is “very positive for us.”

Addy Hatch

Starbucks to cover tuition for four years

NEW YORK – Starbucks said its workers can now have four years of tuition covered for an online college degree from Arizona State University instead of just two.

The Seattle-based coffee chain said the decision is part of its commitment to “redefine the role and responsibility of a public company.”

The expansion of the program comes as employers increasingly seek to win favor with customers by cultivating their images for being socially responsible. Last week, McDonald’s also announced it was expanding a college tuition assistance program to workers at its more than 14,300 U.S. stores. At its company-owned stores, McDonald’s said workers would get a pay bump and be able to earn paid time off as well.

Other major employers that have announced wage hikes recently include Wal-Mart Stores and Gap Inc.

Associated Press

U.S. services index falls slightly in March

WASHINGTON – U.S. service firms expanded at a slightly slower yet still healthy pace in March, an encouraging sign after multiple reports last week pointed to a slowing economy.

The Institute for Supply Management said Monday that its services index slipped to 56.5 last month, from 56.9 in February. Any reading over 50 indicates expansion.

A measure of sales fell last month and dragged down the overall index. But gauges of hiring and orders rose, evidence that services firms may see solid growth in the coming months.

Associated Press

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