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4-patents: Greenpeace sets patents on life in concrete

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Greenpeace sets twelve 'patents on life' in cement as 
European patent conference ignores scandalous applications

Munich, 29th November, 2000 – Greenpeace activists today 
set in cement twelve original European patent applications in 
protest over the fact that the diplomatic conference of the 
European Patent Convention (EPC) failed to reverse the 
ongoing illegal practice to patent living organisms and genes.

As the ten-day conference of the EPC parties was concluding 
behind closed doors in Munich, Greenpeace activists erected a 
three-meter high steel monument in front of the European Patent 
Office (EPO) and - despite heavy police interference - set twelve
application for ‘patents on file’ into its cement foundations. 
PATENTABLE,” said the text in the monument.

"Greenpeace confiscated these patent applications as there is 
currently no other way to stop the European Patent Office 
(EPO) from granting patents on life – on human and animal 
organs and genes and on plants. The EPC conference now 
simply refuses to discuss patents on life or exercise its legal right 
and moral responsibility to stop the scandalous practice,” 
explained Dr Christoph Then, Campaigner at Greenpeace 

In June 1999, the EPO quietly took a decision to implement the 
controversial European Union Biotech Patents Directive 
(98/44/EC), which allows patents on life. The provisions of this 
directive are in direct conflict with those of the Patent 
Convention - which is not an EU instrument - and which the 
EPO is legally obliged to implement. (1)

"Greenpeace now calls on parliaments and governments in 
Europe to take action over this issue of public importance. The 
fact is that the EPO has overstepped its mandate given in its 
founding treaty - the European Patent Convention. It is 
unacceptable that the EPO ignores its own legal basis and the 
negative impacts of these patents on life,” Then added.

Information collected by Greenpeace shows that during the past 
year, the EPO has granted several patents on seeds and plant 
varieties, despite the fact that the patent convention law itself 
prohibits such patents. There are currently several hundreds of 
patents on living organisms and their genes pending and about to 
be granted.

For more information: 
In Munich, Germany, Christoph Then, Greenpeace Genetic 
Engineering Campaigner; Tel: +49-171-8780-832; Thomas 
Schweiger, Greenpeace GE campaigner, Tel: +49-171-8780-
844; Michael Hopf, Press Officer, Greenpeace Germany, Tel: 
+49-171-8780-835; Teresa Merilainen, Greenpeace Press 
Office, Tel: +31 20 5236637.
Pictures available from Greenpeace Germany picture 
desk, Tel: +49-40 30618377 or from Greenpeace 
International, John Novis, Tel: +31-20-524 9580 

Notes to the editors: 

(1) As the European Patent Office interprets all exemption from 
patentability as narrowly as possible – in other words grants 
patents unless they are explicitly forbidden – life is not covered 
by any exclusion from patenting. 

Most EU countries have not yet implemented the Biotech Patent 
Directive (98/44/EC) into their national law despite the fact that 
the dead-line to do so passed last July. In October, the German 
government decided to initiate a re-negotiation process on EU 
level. The Netherlands, Italy and Norway have disputed the EU 
Biotech Patent Directive at the European Court of Justice. 

Teresa Merilainen
Media Officer
Greenpeace International
Keizersgracht 176
1016 DW Amsterdam
The Netherlands