The European Patent Office re-opens the possibility to grant patents on life

On 5 December 2018, the Technical Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO) took a decision which potentially reopens patentability of plants and animals.

This follows the EPO’s decision of June 2017, amending two articles (Art. 27 (b) and 28) of the Implementing Regulation to the European Patent Convention to exclude plants and animals resulting ‘exclusively’ from essentially biological processes from patentability. The amendments to these articlesclarified that plants and animals obtained from conventional breeding, not involving genetic engineering, are excluded from patentability. IFOAM EU welcomed this decision as a first step to avoid patent on life in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the Directive 98/44/EC on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions.

However, in its recent decision, the Technical Board of Appeal of the EPO took a step back, considering that the new article 28 is ‘in conflict’ with article 53(b) of the European Patent Convention.
This decision is astonishing, as by modifying article 28, the 38 member countries wanted to leave  no room for interpretation. That is why ‘No Patent on seeds’ calls for a moratorium of patents on plants and animals until the 38 Countries Member of the EPO will discuss this decision which is in direct contradiction with their position.
IFOAM EU will continue to follow these discussions which could have serious consequences on the freedom of farmers and consumers closely.

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