The Evolution of the CJEU's Case Law on Stem Cell Patents: Context, Outcome and Implications of Case C‑364/13 International Stem Cell Corporation.
Published in Nordic Intellectual Property Law Review (NIR), Nr. 5, pp. 493-503 (2015).
10 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2015 Last revised: 25 Feb 2016
Date Written: March 11, 2015
On 18th December 2014, the CJEU rendered its’ much-anticipated decision in C‑364/13 International Stem Cell Corporation v Comptroller General of Patents (ISCC). Qualifying its’ earlier ruling in Brüstle v. Greenpeace (Brüstle) with regard to non-fertilised human ova stimulated by parthenogenesis, the Court held that in order to constitute a ‘human embryo’ - and thus to be unpatentable under the EU Biotechnology Directive - the stimulated ovum must have the “inherent capacity to develop into a human being”. This would allow patents on innovative parthenotes which had not been genetically modified to achieve totipotent capabilities. Hence the judgment establishes a crucial limitation of the broad interpretation of “human embryos” in Brüstle, where the CJEU held that parthenotes are covered by the term “human embryo” since they are “capable of commencing the process of development of a human being”. The ISCC decision is to be welcomed since it provides an ethically justifiable leeway for patenting and offers reasonable support to the commercial viability of European cell therapy research. Yet, ISCC’s impact still depends on national implementations and only applies to certain hESC cells. Thus, further clarifications would be helpful concerning other non-totipotent hESCs.
Keywords: biotech, patents, Europe, stem cells, innovation policy
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation