GENET archive


6-Patents: Europe's patent office restricts genentic rodent patent

                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Europe's patent office restricts genentic rodent patent
SOURCE: Agence France Press / Terra Daily
DATE:   6 Jun 2004 

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Europe's patent office restricts genentic rodent patent

MUNICH, Germany (AFP) Jul 06, 2004 - The European Patent Office placed
new restrictions Tuesday on a patent it had issued for a genetically
modified rodent that its inventors claim can be useful in cancer
research. Using the patented technique, scientists can alter a gene in
rodents and make them more likely to develop tumours, which means they
can be used to test whether a material might contain carcinogens.
Spokesman Rainer Osterwalder said the EPO had decided that Harvard
University's so-called Oncomouse patent would now only apply to mice
rather than any kind of rodent. The decision came after an appeal against
the patent, the first ever granted for a transgenic animal, was launched
by six organisations from Austria, Britain, Germany and Switzerland. The
ruling appeared to back their claim that the patent tried to protect
animal varieties, which is illegal under the European Patent Convention.
The six had also maintained that it was "contrary to public order and
morality" and did not meet other patent law requirements. The ruling
means that no new appeal can be launched except through the courts. The
patent has been in force in the United States since 1988. The
environmental group Greenpeace, which was not involved in the appeal but
had protested against the patent at EPO headquarters in Munich, southern
Germany, said the decision did not go far enough. The EPO is responsible
for the practical functioning of Europe's patent system, which involves
the 28 countries that have signed up to the European Patent Convention.

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Harvard patent on genetically altered mouse upheld
SOURCE: Associated Press / Boston Herald, USA
DATE:   6 Jul 2004

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Harvard patent on genetically altered mouse upheld

MUNICH, Germany - The European Patent Office on Tuesday upheld a Harvard
University patent on a mouse genetically altered to develop cancer, but
restricted its wording so that it applies only to mice and not to all
species of rodents. The pan-European patent, granted in 1992, protects
the method of producing the animals. But the ruling, which closes a
years-long legal battle with environmental groups, added further
qualifications to a 2001 ruling that limited the patent to rodents,
rather than mammals in general. The patent office acknowledged concerns
about ethical questions and animal rights, but also said the medical uses
of the patent must be weighed. A collection of church, environmental and
animal protection groups, among them Greenpeace, had argued for the
patent to be canceled, saying that it violated the dignity of living
beings. After the 2001 ruling, six organizations filed an appeal.
Greenpeace spokesman Christopher Then welcomed the restriction as an
``important partial success,'' but expressed regret that the European
Patent Office hadn't backed off recognizing patents for mammals. The
development of the mouse was intended to ease research and treatment of
tumors in humans. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent
to the Harvard mouse in 1988, the first "transgenic animal patent to be
granted. The patent from the Munich-based European Patent Office is valid
in 11 European countries.


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