The European Patent Office (EPO) stays all proceedings directed to plant and animal patents. It has decided to do so in anticipation of a recommendation from the EU member states on such patents.
In the past the EPO decided that biological processes for the production of plants or animals, such as crossing of plants, should not be considered patentable. On the basis of the Biotechnology Directive from the European Union, the EPO recently concluded that products that derive from one of these non-patentable processes, i.e. new plant varieties, could be patented
Not meant to happen
On the basis of this decision, many patent applications are being filed for plants and legal proceedings are being instituted for alleged plant patent infringements. The EPO has now decided to stay proceedings directed to the patenting of plants and animals.
It has done so after the European Commission voiced their opinion that the Biotechnology Directive was definitely not intended to make it possible for plants obtained by biological processes to be patented.
The EPO now wants to hear from the EU member states how they feel about this politically sensitive issue. Until such time as there is an answer to this question, many proceedings directed to plant patents will be stayed.
For companies that have filed a patent application for these plants, this means that they will have a longer wait for a patent or may never obtain one at all. Whatever the outcome will be, this will have far-reaching consequences for growers and plant-breeding companies.
I recommend all companies active in this sector to make sure they are thoroughly informed about the matter. If you have any question please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone +31 30 - 273 75 10.