Stem cell patents and the European Court of Justice

On 10 March 2011 the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice gave his opinion on a long-running legal battle over patenting of a technique that uses embryonic stem cells. Scientists have expressed profound concerns about this opinion and its potential to impact stem cell research in Europe. Read their letter below, find out more about the case and its implications, and comment if you wish.

Open letter: stem cell patent case could have far-reaching impact

**New: European Court Decision, 18 October 2011** Stem cell scientists have raised serious concerns about the impact of a possible ban on patents for techniques using human embryonic stem cells.

Background: European Advocate General critical of stem cell patents

The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice has today given his recommendation for a ruling on a long-running legal battle over patenting of a technique that uses embryonic stem cells.

Latest comments on the open letter

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Advocate-general’s recommendation could undermine European biotechnology sector

In the European Union, research is supported and funded by Framework Programmes. One of their goals is to create opportunities for industry in Europe based on EU-generated knowledge. Participation of industry in collaborative research projects is encouraged. A block on patents would make this extremely difficult to achieve.

Stem cell patents: legal aspects

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*New 18 June 2012*: The EU ban on embryonic stem cell patents is legally flawed, argues a paper and public lecture by Aurora Plomer, Chair of Law and Bioethics at the University of Sheffield, UK. Find out more.

June 2011: Lately there have been several cases on the patentability of inventions related to human embryonic stem cells (hESC) in Europe. Now the first case has reached the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest European court, whose decision will be binding for all EU member states.

The judgement of the ECJ is still outstanding. However, the Advocate General Yves Bot offered his opinion on the case, which points towards a complete prohibition of patents for inventions relating to hESC. While the court does not have to follow the opinion, it does so in a majority of the cases.

Stem cell patents: ethical aspects

Patent law addresses a problem that is basically ethical: what is a fair balance between the interests of the inventor, the industry, potential users and society at large?