In 1998, the EU harmonised patent law in member countries relating to biotechnological inventions. This clarifies which inventions are patentable or not on ethical grounds, giving the legal certainty to organisations in the sector that is required to attract the considerable investment that is needed for innovation.
Directive 98/44/EC, the so-called ‘Biotech Directive’ on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions was adopted in 1998 and implemented by all EU countries.
The Biotech Directive requires regular reporting on particular issues in the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering. To provide information on recent scientific developments and their implications on patent law, the Commission set up an expert group with the mission to provide expertise, analysis and comments on the rapid evolutions in the biotechnological field.
The report of the expert group provides expert analysis, views and recommendations on three main subjects directly linked to Directive 98/44/EC on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions. The report consists of three chapters dedicated to the patentability of human stem cells, the patentability of patent-related inventions and the scope of protection for DNA-related inventions. The issues surrounding these subjects were identified by experts as deserving of immediate discussion at the beginning of their work. Please note that this report does not necessarily represent the position of the Commission.
On 3 November the Commission adopted a notice clarifying certain articles of Directive 98/44 on the protection of biotechnological inventions. The Directive focuses on patenting in the biotech industry. The notice states that products created through essential biological processes should be excluded from patentability. Furthermore, it calls for more analysis of compulsory cross licensing between plant variety rights and patenting. The Commission also expands on how the Directive ensures that there is enough fair access to patented material of biological origin. Although a Commission Notice is not legally binding, its aim is to provide more clarity on the issue for the biotech, plant and animal breeding sectors.
This report covers developments and implications of patent law in the field of biotechnology and genetic engineering. It focuses on issues in the area of patents relating to gene sequences and the patentability of inventions relating to stem cells. It also reports on the implementation of the Directive.
This report called for the swift implementation of the 1998 Directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions to stop Europe falling behind its competitors in this sector, damaging its overall efforts to become the most competitive economy in the world. The report also addresses key provisions of the Directive, such as the potential patenting of plants and animals and the patenting of elements isolated from the human body or otherwise produced, including stem cells.