E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


EU takes nations to court on patent laws

(Thursday, July 10, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Associated Press: BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The EU's head office is taking eight countries to court over their failure to adapt their national patent laws, saying Thursday that their lack of cooperation has put the European biotechnology sector at a ``serious disadvantage.''

``Adequate patent protection is essential to encourage the investment required to create jobs and maintain the European Union's competitiveness in this crucial field,'' the European Commission said.

After a 10-year debate, the EU adopted what it called ``strict ethical rules'' for patenting biotech inventions in 1998 and gave member states until July 30, 2000, to transpose them into national law.

Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden still have not done so, prompting the commission to refer them to the European Court of Justice.

Their failure to implement the EU directive ``has created trade barriers and hampered the internal market,'' it said. ``Non-implementation ... is putting the European biotechnology sector at a serious disadvantage.''

Seeking to allay public concerns about patenting processes using human genes or DNA molecules, the rules ban patents for cloning human beings or modifying their genetic identity, as well as the use of human embryos for industrial purposes.

The commission said last year that it expects that the global biotechnology market, not counting agriculture, could amount to more than euro2 trillion ($2.26 trillion) by 2010.

Yet while Europe has more dedicated biotech companies (1,570) than the United States (1,273), those in Europe are relatively small, newer and undercapitalized. The U.S. biotech sector employs 162,000 people, compared to 61,000 in Europe, and has far more products in the pipeline, according to EU figures.

Philippe Jacobs of the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology said uncertainty over patents was ``definitely'' discouraging investment in Europe. ``For the industry it's really crucial to have patent protection on their product to have legal certainty,'' he said.