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EPO Conference Highlights Need For Clarity Over Biotech Patents

by Ulrika Lomas, for LawAndTax-News.com, Brussels

12 November 2007


The European Patent Office (EPO) on Thursday hosted a conference on biotechnology, bringing together some 120 policy makers, patent attorneys, scientists, industry and NGO officials, as well as representatives from the IP realm.

According to the EPO, the Brussels conference, divided into four expert panels, "gave a voice to proponents and critics of biotechnology patenting, who eventually all came to the same conclusion: Nearly ten years after Europe's lawmakers adopted the BioTech Directive 98/44 EC, legal uncertainty still affects the work of IP specialists, researchers and enterprises alike".

While the individual countries are interpreting specific concepts of the directive differently, the EPO is seen to be "the cement between its member states," Johan Vanhemelrijk, the secretary general of EuropaBio, an industry group, observed.

Sharon Bowles, a member of the European Parliament, called for the swift installation of an European Patent Court to achieve legal harmonisation, and noted that the EPO was "no closed shop", but helped facilitate the exchange of ideas regarding biotechnology patenting.

Also at the conference, Professor Julian Kinderlerer, a member of the European Group on Ethics that advises the EC on ethical questions, gave an inside glimpse into the tough reasoning pro and contra biotechnology patents.

Experts also noted the decline of DNA patenting, examined the ethical and legal issues surrounding plant and animal patents, and stressed the difficulty of identifying an European moral norm with regard to patents for human embryonic stem cells.

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