A second stem cell patentability case is referred to the CJEU

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In International Stem Cell Corporation (ISCC) v Comptroller General of Patents, Henry Carr QC, sitting as a deputy High Court judge in the Patents Court, has made only the second reference to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for a preliminary ruling on the patentability of stem cells, under Directive 98/44/ED (the Biotechnology Directive). The question referred concerns whether stem cells obtained from parthenogenically stimulated human ova are excluded from patentability as ‘human embryos’ under that directive.

ISCC’s method of obtaining stem cells does not involve the destruction of a fertilised ovum and the cells obtained (pluripotent cells) are claimed not to be capable of developing into a human being. Therefore, this technology, for which ISCC seeks two patents, is seen as a more morally acceptable alternative to obtaining stem cells directly from human embryos, or cell lines deriving from them. The latter technology is destructive of the embryo and produces cells that can potentially develop into a human being (totipotent cells). Inventions of this type were ruled unpatentable by the CJEU in its Brüstle decision last year…

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