A case before the Court of Justice for the European Union threatens to radically redraw the patent landscape for embryonic stem cells. Ashley Roughton explains.
Our European patent system is self-financing, self-sufficient and almost self-legislating. It works on two, intertwined levels. It is complex, has its own courts, and perhaps, some may say, the very last thing we need is further legislative interest by a body that, until recently, has had little to do with patenting in Europe. Yet this is what the European Council and Parliament did when trying to legislate for patents and morality in 1998 via Directive 98/44/EC on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions—the Biotech Directive.
It says much, but principal amongst its objects is to somehow enforce morality; patents must not be immoral, so the Biotech Directive tells us. Oh yes, and you cannot actually patent the human body “at the various stages of its formation and development”. That, for most of us, is what it took eight pages of directive to tell us. Morality includes not being able to patent uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes.
This human body objection is not really an objection at all. You never could patent a discovery, so it seems that patent law, in this respect at least, is being restated. It is the latter prohibition—patents shall not monopolise uses of human embryos—that causes more comment.
You need a subscription to continue reading this content.
To access the full archive, digital magazines and special reports you will need to take out a paid subscription.
News stories up to a week old and feature articles on the day of publication are accessible with a BASIC FREE ACCOUNT.
If you have already subscribed please login.
If you have any technical issues please email tech support.
For access to the complete website, archive, and to receive print publications, choose '12 MONTH SUBSCRIPTION'. For a free, two-week trial with full access, select ‘TWO WEEK FREE TRIAL’; and for basic access to the latest news on the website and weekly email news alerts choose the 'BASIC FREE ACCOUNT' registration.
stem cells, CJEU, Biotech Directive, biotechnology