Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Court Allows Patenting of Stem Cell Technologies

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Court Allows Patenting of Stem Cell Technologies

Article excerpt

A court in Germany has given a "glimmer of hope" to inventors hoping to patent human embryonic stem cell technologies in Europe.

In interpreting a landmark decision by the European Court of Justice, the German Federal Court of Justice has ruled that technologies involving cells derived from human embryonic stem cells that do not directly involve the destruction of human embryos can be patented.

The court upheld a patent awarded to University of Bonn professor Oliver Brustle, which had been disputed in a legal challenge by Greenpeace under the EU Biotechnology Directive, which bans the use of human embryos for industrial and commercial purposes.

In a decision in October 2011, the European Court of Justice ruled that technologies that have at any stage involved the destruction of a human embryo could not be patented, leading stem cell researchers to fear that translational research in Europe might suffer. There is thought to be no similar restriction on patenting outside Europe.

However, in interpreting this ruling on 27 November 2012, the German court determined that in vitro cells derived from the blastocyst stage of embryo development did not themselves have the capability to develop into people, and therefore did not count as human embryos. …

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