Stem Cell Patents

Intellectual Property
Home / South Africa / Stem Cell Patents

Embryonic Stem Cell Patents:
The ECJ (European Court of Justice) has announced their decision to ban patents for inventions based on embryonic stem cells for all EU states. But does this mean that patents cannot be granted for any techniques based on stem cells? Read more… Stem Cell Patents

How to interpret European biotechnology regulations:
No patents can be granted for inventions based on embryonic stem cells, even if the cell lines were established in the laboratory many years ago and the invention itself does not involve obtaining new embryonic stem cells. Professor Oliver Brüstle of the Institute for Reconstructive Neurology at the University of Bonn believes that the fruits of years of  research by European scientists will be wiped away. Brüstle remains optimistic and believes that stem cell technology will continue to progress on an international level. Professor Austin Smith of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Cambridge stated that this decision leaves scientists in a ridiculous position. He said that scientists are funded to do research for the public good, yet prevented from taking their discoveries to the market place where they could be developed into new medicines. The benefits of this research will now be reaped in America and Asia.

Stem Cell Patents History:
In 1999 Greenpeace challenged a patent granted to Professor Brüstle for a method of producing neural progenitor cells from embryonic stem cell lines. Greenpeace’s argument: Since human embryonic stem cell lines originate from fertilized eggs, the patent represented a forbidden use of human embryos and contravened ordre public. Brüstle’s argument: The patented method did not itself include the use of embryos or the acquisition of embryonic stem cells, but used already established embryonic stem cell lines, which can be obtained around the world and can be legally used for research in Germany. The German Federal Patent Court ruled in favor of Greenpeace and declared the patent invalid.