GENET archive


4-Patents: U.S. lawmakers weigh human organism patent ban

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Lawmakers weigh human organism patent ban
SOURCE: Associated Press / Seattle Post-Intelligencer, USA, by Jim Abrams
DATE:   Nov 24, 2003

------------------- archive: -------------------

Lawmakers weigh human organism patent ban

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Patent Office would be barred from issuing patents
on human organisms, such as genetically engineered embryos, under an
agreement reached by lawmakers Monday.

Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., a medical doctor who sponsored the provision to
be included in a giant spending bill, said it would codify existing
Patent Office rules that human organisms are not patentable subject matter.

Weldon said an agreement was worked out with senators to make clear, in a
report accompanying the provision, that the patent ban would not
interfere with stem cell research.

The provision would ban patents for genetically engineered human embryos,
fetuses and human beings, but would not affect patents on genes, cells,
tissue and other biological products. It would also not stop scientists
from seeking patents for the procedures or methods of creating a
biological product.

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office director James Rogan, in a letter last
week to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska,
said his office viewed the Weldon amendment as "fully consistent with
USPTO's policy on the non-patentability of human life-forms."

He said the measure gave "unequivocal congressional backing" for a rule
"refusing to grant any patent containing a claim that encompasses any
member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development."

Weldon said in a recent floor speech that his amendment would leave the
Patent Office free to address new or borderline issues. As an example, he
noted that the Patent Office does grant patents in cases where an animal
has been modified to include a few human genes so it can produce a human
protein or antibody.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization has voiced concerns about the
amendment, saying the language is vague and would jeopardize many human-
derived biotechnology inventions. It warned that investors, fearing a
lack of patent protection, would not invest when there is no clear
definition of what encompasses a human organism.

"The biotechnology industry has been fighting this tooth and nail,"
Weldon said.

The amendment last July was attached to the House version of a 2004
spending bill for the departments of Commerce, Justice and State. The
bill is included in a package of unfinished spending bills that Congress
is expected to approve and send to the president next week.

Weldon was also the sponsor earlier this year of legislation that would
impose a total ban on all human cloning. The bill passed the House but
has stalled in the Senate.


On the Net:

Rep. Dave Weldon:

Biotechnology Industry Organization:


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(at)
W: <>