Commission report: gene sequences are patentable

A Commission report concludes that there are no objective grounds for restrictions on traditional patent protection for inventions relating to sequences of human genes. However, other issues relating to ethics, to research and to economics have been raised. 

‘Developments and implications of patent law in the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering’ is the second report on the Directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions (July 1998). It describes the main developments on patents on gene sequences and patentability of human embryonic stem cells since October 2002 (the first report).

The report states that totipotent stem cells (those capable of developing into a human being) are excluded from patentability on the grounds of human dignity, but says that giving a definite answer on patentability of inventions relating to embryonic pluripotent stem cells (those which can develop into other types of cell but are not capable of developing into a human being) would be premature.

The Commission has launched a study that will analyse the extent of human DNA patenting in Europe and its potential consequences on research and innovation. 

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