GENET archive


PATENTS: REVOKED!! Monsanto monopoly nixed in Munich

                                 PART I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  REVOKED!! Monsanto monopoly nixed in Munich
SOURCE: ETC Group, Canada
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   03.05.2007

REVOKED!! Monsanto monopoly nixed in Munich
but little joy in foiling soy ploy at this late date

Munich - The European Patent Office today put the brakes on Monsanto's
over-the-top corporate greed by revoking its species-wide patent on all
genetically modified soybeans (EP0301749) - a patent unprecedented in
its broad scope. ETC Group, an international civil society organization
based in Canada, won its 13-year legal challenge against Monsanto's
species-wide soybean patent when an EPO appeal board ruled that the
patent was not new or sufficient (i.e., the invention claimed was not
sufficiently described for a skilled person to repeat it). The patent
challenge was supported by Greenpeace and "No Patents on Life!" Dr.
Ricarda Steinbrecher of UK-based EcoNexus also joined the opposition
team in Munich as a scientific expert.

The patent was vigorously and formally opposed by Monsanto itself until
the company purchased the original patent assignee (Agracetus) in 1996.
The technology related to the now-revoked patent has been used, along
with other patents in the company's portfolio, to corner 90% of the
world's GM soybean market. [For more information, see ETC Group News
Release, "Monsanto's Soybean Monopoly Challenged in Munich," April 30,

"It's shameful that it took the European Patent office 13 years to kill
Monsanto's immoral patent, which was ultimately revoked on technical
grounds. Though we're relieved that the species-wide patent on all
genetically modified soybeans - both seeds and plants - was not allowed
to stand, the delay of more than a decade demonstrates just how broken
the patent system is. The patent had barely a year to go before
expiring!" said Hope Shand, who represented ETC Group in Munich today.

"It was particularly satisfying," said Shand, "that Monsanto's own
blistering 1994 arguments against the patent were ultimately key in
defeating it." One of Monsanto's top scientists testified in 1994 that
the genetic engineering process described in the patent was insufficient
to allow a skilled scientist to replicate the procedure - a necessary
criterion for patentability.

ETC Group, which first challenged the patent in 1994 (as RAFI), was
represented in Munich by UK barrister Daniel Alexander and patent
attorney Tim Roberts of Brookes Batchellor, LLP.

According to patent attorney Tim Roberts, "It is very satisfying that
the European Appeal Board has completely revoked this patent. This
decision sends a message to greedy patentees - don't claim more than you
are entitled to."

Patent expert Dr. Christoph Then of Greenpeace commented on the outcome
of today's hearing, "The EPO's decision to throw out the patent will
have implications for Monsanto and the EPO. It is now shown that the
Patent Office is granting patents covering broad sectors of agricultural
diversity with no real invention to back them up," said Then.

Ruth Tippe from the European-wide initiative, "No Patents on Life!"
asserts, "This is an important step against patents on seeds because it
shows that civil society will keep on fighting and can ultimately
succeed against powerful multinationals."

According to Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher of EcoNexus, "Monsanto's patent
couldn't even survive on its scientific merits. It was a thoroughly bad
patent - from both a technical and moral perspective."

Multinational firm Syngenta also made oral arguments today opposing the
patent. While their technical expertise may have contributed to the
patent's ultimate downfall, their opposition is viewed by civil society
as cynical. In January 2005, ETC Group reported on three Syngenta patent
applications that also make breathtakingly broad claims - multi-genome
patents with claims on gene sequences that extend to 40 plant species.
Despite assurances from Syngenta that the company would let the patents
lapse, all three applications appear to be active still at the World
Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). [See ETC Group Communiqué,
"Syngenta - The Genome Giant?" January/February 2005 http://]

This isn't ETC Group's first successful battle against species-wide
patents. Most notably, another Agracetus patent - this one granted by
the US Patent and Trademark Office in 1992 and claiming all genetically
engineered cotton varieties - was eventually revoked in India and the US
in 1994.

Other overly broad, unjust patents have yet to be revoked, however. The
formal challenge to the notorious "Enola Bean" patent, US Patent No.
5,894,079, granted on a yellow bean genetically identical to a pre-
existing Mexican bean variety, has entered its seventh year. [See ETC
Group Genotype, "Whatever Happened to the Enola Bean Patent Challenge?"
21 December 2005

Note to editors: The final wording of today's ruling by the EPO appeals
board will not be released for several more weeks.

For further information:
ETC Group (Carrboro, NC, USA)
Hope Shand (back from Munich on 7 May) or
Kathy Jo Wetter
Tel: +1 919 960-5223
ETC Group (Ottawa, Canada)
Pat Mooney
Tel: +1 613 2412267
ETC Group (Montreal, Canada)
Jim Thomas
Tel: +1 514 516-5759

-------------------- archived at --------------------

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  European Patent Office revokes Monsanto´s species patent on
        genetically engineered soy beans
SOURCE: No Patents on Seeds and Animals
AUTHOR: Press Release
DATE:   03.05.2007

European Patent Office revokes Monsanto´s species patent on genetically
engineered soy beans

Munich, May 3, 2007. In a public hearing at the board of appeal at the
European Patent Office a basic patent (EP 0301749) of US company
Monsanto was revoked today. Reasons were that parts of the patent were
not really new and others details were not described in a way that the
invention could be really repeated by other experts.

The final decision was the outcome of appeals which were filed by
Canadian civil society organisation ETC Group and the European Company
of Syngenta. Further oppositions were filed orginally by the NGO No
Patents on Life! and four other companies when the patent was granted in
1994. Even Monsanto filed an opposition, but then bought the company
Agracetus which originally owned the patent, withdrew its opposition and
started to defend the patent.

According to Hope Shand of ETC Group, ?The decision comes pretty late,
13 years after the patent was granted. But the decision to revoke the
patent is wonderful news. The species wide soybean patent of Monsanto is
not allowed to stand."

In its orginal version as granted the patent covered all genetically
engineered plant species and especially soybeans and was seen as one of
the broadest species patent ever granted on plants and seeds. The
background of the so called invention was a particle gun method by which
plants get bombarded by metallic particles and so introducing foreign
genes into plant material. A similar version of the particle gun (which
does not allow a precise transfer of gene sequences) is still being used
today to produce not only in Monsanto´s plants.

Ruth Tippe from the organisation ?No Patents on Life!" says: ?This is an
important step against patents on seeds, because it shows that civil
society will keep on fighting and can finally succeed even against
powerful multinationals."

The outcome of the procedure will not only affect Monsanto but also the
European Patent Office: ?It is now shown that the Patent Office is
granting patents which are covering broad sectors of agricultural
diversity without really invention behind. There are many others patents
which simply satisfy the greed of companies but do not give benefits to
society," says Christoph Then from Greenpeace.

Greenpeace which was supporting the legal challenge of No Patents on
Life and ETC Group, is urging for a worldwide ban on patents on seeds
and currently cooperating in a global coalition with farmers
organisation (

-------------------- archived at --------------------


the news & information service of the
European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)

phone....... +49-531-5168746
fax......... +49-531-5168747
email....... hartmut.meyer(*)
skype....... hartmut_meyer