EU Patent Office Clarifies Ban on Animal and Plant Patents

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By Peter Leung

The European Patent Office will clarify that plants and animals bred exclusively through normal, biological processes can’t be patented.

The amended guidelines will take effect July 1, the EPO said in a statement issued June 29.

The clarification is necessary because although an EU directive on biotechnological inventions, Directive 98/44/EC, says that essentially biological processes are unpatentable, it is unclear whether the plants and animals obtained from those processes are also barred.

The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, said in an advisory interpretation of the directive that the resulting plants and animals are also barred.

After that, the EPO, which had granted several patents covering plants derived from biological processes, placed all pending patent applications and oppositions involving that type of technology on hold.

European Patents are examined by the EPO and validated in European countries chosen by the applicant, resulting in separate, national patents.

A spokeswoman for the EPO told Bloomberg BNA that the revised guidelines are not yet available.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Leung in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at

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