22 oct. 2011

ECJ bans patents on transplantation of embryo cells, Brüstle, C-34/10

Professor Olivier Brüstle got the German patent related to neural precursor cells and the processes for their production from embryonic stem cells for therapeutic purposes, but was attacked by Greenpeace and finally lost proceedings before the Grand Chamber of the ECJ.

Professor Brüstle tried to argue that, in fact, he does not work with “embryo”, but the ECJ replied that “embryo” is an autonomous concept of the EU law and gave it the widest sense possible – thus, covering any human ovum after fertilisation, any non-fertilised human ovum into which the cell nucleus from a mature human cell has been transplanted and any non-fertilised human ovum whose division and further development have been stimulated by parthenogenesis (§§ 26, 38).

Professor Brüstle then argued that he does not use embryos for “industrial or commercial purposes” but for “purposes of scientific research” only. The ECJ replied that the word “patent” implies its industrial or commercial application (§§ 41-42). Therefore, according to the Grand Chamber, “industrial or commercial purposes” cover “scientific” ones (§ 46).

Thus, the transplantation of embryo cells became unpatentable.

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