Aude Gerspacher | Bloomberg Law Although stem cell research has the potential to provide treatment for numerous diseases and disorders, it remains a controversial topic due to the nature of these cells, in particular human embryonic stem cells. Unlike their adult counterparts, embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, i.e. they possess the ability to differentiate into any cell type. The controversy centers on the establishment of human embryonic stem cell lines which involves the destruction of a human embryo. As with any other technology, the availability of patents can promote research and innovation in the realm of stem cell research. Presently in the United States, human embryonic stem cells and their uses are patentable. The patentability of human embryonic stem cells in Europe had not been clear until a recent decision issued by the Court of Justice of the European Union ("CJEU") ruling that an invention requiring the destruction of a human embryo or its use as a base material, whatever the stage at which that takes place and even if the description of the technical teaching does not refer to the use of a human embryo, is unpatentable.1 This ruling provides clear and strong boundaries on what is patentable in the stem cell field in Europe. Not surprisingly, the U.S. and Europe differ on the issue of stem cell patenting. This is primarily due to the differences between the respective patent laws. Europe's relevant laws contain a morality clause which allows the refusal of patents on moral grounds. The U.S. Patent Act does not contain such a clause. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office "" Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences ("BPAI") recognized this fact in noting that if the requirements of patentability have been met, a ground of rejection based on the lack of beneficial utility is not proper. The BPAI stated that the USPTO "should not be the agency which seeks to enforce a standard of morality."2 Following the recent CJEU decision, this article reviews the status of human embryonic stem cell patenting in the U.S. and Europe to provide an understanding of the resulting policies.
U.S. Policy and Laws Relating to Stem Cell Research
Patentability of Human Embryonic Stem cells in the U.S.
European Policy and Laws Relating to Stem Cell Research
Patentability of Human Embryonic Stem Cells in Europe
Recent CJEU Decision on Patentability of Human Embryonic Stem Cells
Future of Stem Cell Research
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