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22 February 2017Biotechnology

European Council meeting discusses biotech patent law

European Council members exchanged views on IP at the Competitiveness Council this week, agreeing that IP is one of the drivers of productivity and economic growth for companies.

The meeting, which took place on Monday, February 20, reiterated that the European Commission should further analyse the development and implications of patent law in the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering.

In the meeting, members explained that earlier  conclusions by the council acknowledged that a commission notice on the legal protection of biotech inventions increases clarity in the field.

The commission notice, published in November 2016, states that plants and animals created through essential biological processes should be excluded from patentability. It is called the “Commission notice on certain articles of Directive 98/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions”.

In the summary of the recent meeting, it was stated that “the commission notice seeks to clarify the demarcation line between patentable biotechnological inventions and plant varieties obtained through conventional breeding, for whom a separate system of protection exists which includes the ‘plant breeders’ privilege’”.

Along with urging the commission to carry out more work, the council reminded that its conclusions “urge member states, in their capacity as members of the European Patent Organisation (EPO), to advocate that the practice of the EPO is aligned with the content of the conclusions”.

The notice discussed in the meeting came in response to EPO decisions on the patentability of plant material obtained through conventional breeding methods.

The EPO’s decisions, in March 2015 on the Broccoli/Tomatoes II cases (G2/13; G2/12), said that products derived from an essentially biological process might be patentable, even if the process used to obtain the product is essentially biological and thus not patentable.

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