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EU Commission Deems Conventional Breeding Non-Patentable

Source: Grill IP patent news

eu-commission-non-patentable-plants-conventional-breedingIn a recent statement, the EU Commission has adopted the stance that plants and animals that are obtained via “essentially biological” breeding are non-patentable. This statement contradicts the European Patent Office’s (EPO) present practice, which as already resulted in the granting of patents on conventional breeding.

Led by the international coalition “No Patents on Seeds!”, the campaign to end essentially biological patents has gone on for several years, mostly through the filing of oppositions and petitions. The coalition’s primary aim is to counter the monopolization of seed and food production. “No Patents on Seeds!” is now demanding that politicians see to the implementation of the EU’s stance on by the EPO, and for the rules of patent law interpretation to be legally binding.

The coordinator of the coalition, Christoph Then, called this a “huge success for civil society organizations and all the thousands of people fighting against patents on plants and animals.” He goes on to mention that “the statement issued by the EU Commission is not legally binding and it will need some further definitions to render it effective. It is now the task of the European governments to bring the EPO under political control.”

Thus far, over 800,000 signatures from civil society organizations were delivered to the Administrative Council of the EPO. The Council is comprised of the representatives of the 38 EPO Member States and it manages the application of patent law. Currently, patent law prohibits patents on the “essentially biological” breeding of plants and animals and on “plant and animal varieties”. In terms of current practice, these bans have largely been ignored by the EPO.

The EU Commission’s statement mirrors prior demands from the EU Parliament and echoes the stance of countries like Germany, France, the Netherlands and Austria, who have already altered there national patent laws to include these prohibitions. “No Patents on Seeds!” is calling for further legal measures to make sure that these prohibitions will not be evaded by claim wording. For instance, plant characteristics derived from conventional breeding do not fall within the range of patentable material granted for methods of genetic engineering. Whether or not these actions will have any consequence on further legal safeguards at the EPO remains to be seen.

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