New Developments In Stem Cell Patenting

Author:Ms Anne Schouboe
Profession:Plougmann & Vingtoft

Even though the biotechnological field is rapidly advancing

especially in the field of stem cell research, scientists working

in the field are met with the implications imposed by ethical

considerations and legal boundaries connected to genetic

engineering and use of human embryos in the name of science.

No patent due to human embryo destruction

The European Patent Office (EPO) recently made a ruling against

stem cell patenting in cases which involve the use and destruction

of human embryos. The ruling was a result of a patent application

filed in 1995 by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF)

– a designated patent management organisation of the

University of Wisconsin – Madison in the US.

The patent application included a description of how to obtain

embryonic stem cell cultures from humans. However, the method for

obtaining this involved a destruction of the human embryos that

were used in the process. This ultimately influenced EPO's

decision on the matter. EPO's Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA)

decided that under the provisions of the EPC including the EU

Biotechnology Directive (98/44/EC), which was implemented in the

EPC in 1999, and Article 53(a) in particular, it was not possible

to grant a patent for human stem cell cultures obtained by such


Using human embryos as a material to obtain the desired product

which would be used for industrial purposes was considered neither

ethically or morally acceptable. In addition, the EPC prohibits all

patenting on applications of human...

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