1 October 2019 / Today is the last day for filing statements at the European Patent Office (EPO) against patents on conventionally bred plants and animals. In the frame of a collection campaign, around 25,000 people and 50 organisations used the opportunity to take up a position. The organisations include SWISSAID, the development aid organisation Oxfam and the umbrella organisations of European farmers (Copa/Cogeca, IFOAM EU). At the same time, the EU Parliament has recently adopted a resolution requesting that such patents are stopped. Similar statements to the EPO were filed, amongst others, by the German, Portuguese and Spanish responsible authorities. Indeed, European Patent Law already prohibits the patenting of conventional breeding. Nevertheless, the EPO has granted an increasing number of these patents covering broccoli and tomatoes, barley and lettuce. Even fish are patented as ‘invention’ just because they are fed with selected plants.
Already in 2017, the 38 contracting states of the EPO took the decision to stop patents on conventionally bred plants and animals. In March this year, the EPO started a procedure (G3/19) involving its highest legal decision-making body, the Enlarged Board of Appeal, to clarify whether this decision was in accordance with the rules and statutes of the European Patent Convention (EPC). The statements filed today have to be taken into account by the Enlarged Board of Appeal. It is likely that the decision will be made next year.
“The EPO has to stop its current practice of only serving the interests of industry and patent attorneys. Political decisions and existing law have to be fully respected. We cannot accept any patent monopolies on the conventional breeding of plants and animals. Otherwise the basic resources for our daily food will be controlled by Bayer & Monsanto, DowDupont and Syngenta“, says Christoph Then for No Patents on Seeds!.
No Patents on Seeds! is demanding a change in the rules for interpreting patent law in order to close these loopholes. It is also calling for the more effective implementation of current prohibitions. However, if a change in the interpretation of current law does not provide sufficient legal certainty and clarity, the European patent law itself needs to be changed accordingly.