Biotech: the EPO on the patentability of human embryonic stem cells

With a decision dated 4 February 2014 (Case T-2221/10), one of the EPO Boards of Appeal ruled on the highly debated issue of human stem cell patentability under the European Patent Convention (EPC). In particular, the board confirmed that human embryonic stem cell inventions are not patentable under article 53(a) of the EPC and clarified the technical and legal boundaries of such exclusion.

The board confirmed that, under the provisions of both article 53(a) and rule 28(c) of the EPC Implementing Regulation, any invention concerning and/or based upon human stem cells or stem cell lines and cultures that can only be obtained de novo via the prior destruction of human embryos are excluded from patentability due to their being ‘contrary to public order or morality’ and as they consist of ‘uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes’…

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