The Enlarged Board of Appeal, the highest level of judicial authority at the European Patent Office (EPO), issued its opinion G 3/19 on questions related to the patentability of plants and animals.
The opinion, triggered by a referral from the President of the EPO in April 2019, concludes that plants and animals exclusively obtained by means of an essentially biological process are excluded from patentability under the European Patent Convention.
Speaking on the case, António Campinos said, ‘I strongly welcome the opinion of the Enlarged Board of Appeal. It will bring greater legal certainty for patent applicants, and the general public, on what is a sensitive and complex issue that has legal, societal and economic implications.'
The Office will act in accordance with the clarifications provided in the Enlarged Board's opinion and implement them in its examination practice in close consultation with stakeholders. Proceedings in examination and opposition which were stayed while the referral was pending will be gradually resumed.
"Still existing loopholes"
No Patents on Seeds! welcomes the verdict but is also demanding further political decisions to close still existing loopholes.
“For more than ten years we have been fighting against patents such as those on broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, melons and cereals. Therefore, we welcome this verdict in the name of the European public, gardeners, farmers and consumers. Knowledge of methods of breeding plants and animals continues to evolve as a common good from the activities of farmers and breeders over centuries, it is not invented by industry. In future, conventionally bred plants and animals have to be kept available for further breeding,” Martha Mertens says for Friends of the Earth Germany.
“We hope the new verdict will help to put an end to a decade of complete legal absurdity and chaotic decision-making at the EPO. However, there is still a huge risk that big corporations, such as Bayer (previously Monsanto) will try to abuse patent law to take control of our daily food,” says Katherine Dolan for ARCHE NOAH. “The problem is not yet solved. Further political decisions still have to be taken to close the existing loopholes.”