Thursday, November 27, 2008

EPO/EBA say no to WARF on stem cell patent application

Reuters reported on Thursday, Nov. 27: European regulators on Thursday ruled against allowing a patent on developing human embryonic stem cells, a decision that could stifle research by stem cell companies for commercial purposes.

The rationale: "European patent law prohibits the patenting of human stem cell cultures whose preparation necessarily involves the destruction of human embryos," the European Patent Office said in a statement.

"That is the decision reached by the Enlarged Board of Appeal of the European Patent Office (EPO)."

Thus, the issue is one of unpatentable subject matter.

In terms of impact on European stem cell research, Reuters wrote: The board's decision to uphold the earlier ruling could keep some companies from jumping into the sector and steer investors to put their money elsewhere. AND The problem for companies looking to profit from technology using stem cells is that without patent protection there is little incentive to pour money into research.

In contrast, John Simpson (who spearheded the re-exam challenge to the US WARF patents which went down in flames) had written:

The groups said the patents' dubious validity is underscored by the fact that no other country in the world honors them. As a result, U.S. researchers have sent research monies abroad where they can avoid paying royalties to WARF.

Well, let's see if stem cell research prospers in Europe after the EPO decision.

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