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STILL NOT TRUE: Press: Dutch opposition/patents directive

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The Dutch newspaper-article quoted below, (HET FINANCIEELE 
DAGBLAD)  is based on false information, is factually wrong and 
grossly misleading!!! 

Here are the facts:

1) The Dutch/Italian challenge to the "Life Patents Directive" 
98/44/EC is still pending at the ECJ (European Court of Justice).
The ECJ has not thrown out the challenge.

2) The ECJ has ruled on July 25th that an INTERIM INJUNCTION, 
as requested by the Government of The Netherlands in addition (!) 
to the challenge, is not justified. This request for an INTERIM 
INJUNCTION has therefore been thrown out. (Text of the ruling in 
Dutch and French can be found ar, search for 
case C-377/98). This in fact means only that Member States by 
EU-law are still required to transform the directive into national law 
(deadline ended July 30th). An interim injunction, as requested by 
the Dutch, would have meant that Member States could have 
legally waited with such a transformation until a final ruling by the 
ECJ on the content of the challenge.

3) The ECJ will NOT RULE by September 2000 on the case, nor 
can it throw out the case alltogether, as stated in the newspaper-
The next step by the ECJ will be a public hearing on the case. It 
cannot be foreseen when exactly this will take place, but the ECJ 
confirmed to us that this will not be in September.
After this hearing, but again with no timeframe given, the ECJ will 
eventually rule on the challenge.

The legal situation is therefore unchanged:

According to EU-law, all EU-Member States will have to transform 
the directive into national law. This should have been done by July 
30th, but the large majority of countries has not acted and some 
have even said that they will not transform the directive as it stands 
(most recently the German government).

Eventually the ECJ will rule, and Member States will then have to 
adapt their national laws according to this ruling. The ECJ has the 
following options:
1) to annull the directive alltogether
2) to change or modify certain parts of it or to call for a 
renegotiation of parts of it
3) to declare the directive valid as it stands

However, please note that the ECJ can only rule on purely LEGAL 
matters, e.g. whether the directive is based on the correct legal 
basis or whether it contradicts international law.

The Court cannot make a political decission on whether or not to 
allow patents on certain things. This decission is up to politics. The 
best way to change the directive is if Member States Government's 
ask the European Commission to start a re-negotiation process of 
the directive on EU-level.

Thomas Schweiger

> AMSTERDAM The Dutch biotechnology industry yesterday welcomed a decision by the European Court of Justice to throw out Holland's objections to European patent law.
> The Dutch parliament is opposed to the EU directive because it allows patenting of genetically modified (GM) plants and animals.
> But Rob Janssen, director of the Dutch biotechnology association Niaba, said that companies using GM bacteria to develop new drugs, for example, must be protected by patents.
> 'Otherwise many companies that have spent millions of guilders will be unable to earn back their investment, allowing them to go on to develop other products. Without a patent, there is nothing to stop one company from stealing another's technology,' Janssen said.
> Dutch MPs have refused to update the law in line with the EU directive.
> Holland and Italy are the only two EU countries which have not agreed to the directive, which came into effect in July.
> Holland lodged a complaint against the directive following opposition from MPs who said companies should not be able to take out a 'copyright on life'.
> The directive poses 'unanswerable' ethical questions, a parliament spokesman said.
> Maria van der Hoeven, spokeswoman for the opposition Christian Democrats (CDA) party, said that complying with the EU directive could give biotechnology companies a monopoly position which they could abuse, especially in developing countries.
> 'We simply don't see why any company should have exclusive rights to a plant or animal variety. What is to stop companies exploiting both their market position and human life itself?'
> Earlier this year, Dutch ministers agreed to make developing a strong biotech industry a top priority.
> The government has said it aims to encourage more biotechnology companies to start up in Holland.
> Holland currently does not allow cloning.
> A spokesman for the European Patent office said that Dutch MPs had less to worry about than they feared.
> 'The EU directive does not allow human cloning, use of human embryos, modifying the gene germ line to affect future generations and patenting of animals for non-pharmaceutical use,' he said.
> Nevertheless, the cabinet will turn to the Council of State for its advice and may appeal to the European Court again later in the year.
> 'We expect news by the end of September. If the court throws our appeal out, we will have little choice but to acquiesce to the directive,' economic affairs ministry spokeswoman Judith Thompson said.
> A gene specialist who did not wish to be named said that Holland was right to show concern about the ethical issues.
> 'No one wants animals to suffer because of genetic manipulation. But Europe must find a common solution to patenting. If 13 countries are in principle agreed to the directive, then that majority will ultimately have the final say,' the specialist said.
> (c) 2000 Het Financieele Dagblad
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