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EU Court Rules Against Stem Cell Patents For Research 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-hereby-patent-your-soul dept.
LibRT writes with this excerpt from the BBC: "Europe's highest court has ruled that stem cells from human embryos cannot be patented, in a case that could have major implications for medicine. ... The European Court of Justice said in a statement: 'The use of human embryos for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it is patentable. But their use for purposes of scientific research is not patentable.' It added: 'A process which involves removal of a stem cell from a human embryo at the blastocyst [early embryo] stage, entailing the destruction of that embryo, cannot be patented.'"
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EU Court Rules Against Stem Cell Patents For Research

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  • by reve_etrange (2377702) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @12:36AM (#37758560)
    The official press release is here [europa.eu]. It is much more specific and easier to interpret than the BBC article, which is perfunctory as usual.
  • The patent system is broken and inhibits innovation. This decision may have had the effect of stimulating exactly the kind of life-saving research they were trying to block.

    Quick, can we convince them that all science is of the devil so they'll scrap the patent system entirely? Donate to Fox and the Westboro Baptists if you have to.

  • Is this good for research in general? So that universities or research institutions don't get gouged with patent fees?

    Or is this some kind of "moral" issue like the one we seem to have here in the US when it comes to anything to do with this subject?

    My big question is can we ever truly socialize medicine in the Western societies? Will there always be big pharmaceutical corporations lurking around to get rich off of the human condition? Is greed the only driving factor of progress? While I am at it, I really

    • by Zironic (1112127)

      It's a moral issue.

      EU Patent laws prohibits biotechnological patents that are against the public good, clone humans, modify the germ line identity of humans, use embryos for industrial or commercial purposes and modify the genetic identity of animals in a way that causes suffering but doesn't give substantial medical benefit.

      This patent came under the "uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes" clause.

      • by lexsird (1208192)

        No modifying the germ line of humans? Interesting subject after briefly reading about it, it was the one thing you mentioned that made me go "huh..?" Personally I think we should tamper with these things, but we shouldn't make it exclusive to any particular entity until we iron out all of the scientific bugs and have a complete understanding of it so that the field is level as far as commercial or mass production.

        I think augmenting ourselves is a great idea and worth the risk. We are up against the galactic

        • by Zironic (1112127)

          In Europe it's almost never a question about "oh my, we shouldn't play God" in public debate since most countries have pushed religion out of the political sphere.

          Rather the issue is that it's hard to distinguish bioengineering humans from racial biology, which is a field that Europe has shunned ever since the Nazi's lost the war since the fear is that those atrocities might happen again.

    • My big question is can we ever truly socialize medicine in the Western societies? Will there always be big pharmaceutical corporations lurking around to get rich off of the human condition? Is greed the only driving factor of progress?

      You can never socialize society until you socialize the human heart. As long as people care more about their own selves and profit than they do about the sufferings of their brother, then collectivism will be impossible.

      Focus on changing people, not on changing rules; when the people change, they will change the rules. Don't think this is impossible, look how far we've come already.

    • My case in point is how Monsanto patented life in their seeds, and now dominate the markets

      So? Aren't plant breeders allowed to have a return on their investment? My favorite apple, SnowSweet, is patented [umn.edu], and were it not for the success of the breeder's last patented apple, HoneyCrisp, it might not exist today. Why should Monsanto be any different? I don't care whether you like them or not, but they're not in the wrong on this one. And by the way, their first patent expires in 2014, and they plan to let it. [monsanto.com] Seems like they're doing it a lot better than the RIAA & MPAA are handling copy

      • by lexsird (1208192)

        What I particularly didn't care for in Food Inc was the guy that had the machine that sifted out the seeds so that a farmer could grow his own seeds to replant and all of the shit he was going through from Monsanto. Even if they had their own strain and it got cross pollinated from someone nearby they were burned with patent violations. Also the whole chicken farms ordeal, and how cattle end up in so much filth didn't strike me very well either. I am sure there were some things you could take issue with in

        • Ok, ok, maybe comparing it to Jenny McCarthy was a bit much. Maybe I'm guilty of exaggerating a bit there. Just a comparison to drive home that for many who know much about agriculture Food Inc is, well, not exactly the most complete picture. I mean, yeah, iit wasn't all bad. There are good points and criticisms to be made about the food supply in general, like worker's issues and animal abuse and whatnot. I just can't stand the overly dramatic 'we're going to tell you what THEY don't want you to know'

  • by RedLeg (22564) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @01:37AM (#37758796) Journal

    For non-american consumers of the english language, the subject line means: "Damn right, about time!"

    Hopefully the sanity will spread in a viral sense internationally, as in to the US and other patent-tarded(tm) countries.

    Red

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You didn't understand the spirit of the ruling. It is meant to punish the researchers by denying them patent rights, on the moral grounds, for destroying human embryo. It is "Pro-Life", not "Anti-Patent".

    • by esocid (946821)
      All they need to do is ban patenting genes next.
  • by tsa (15680) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @02:12AM (#37758912) Homepage

    Nice to see there are still some brain cells working in the EU.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Alex Belits (437) *

      No. This is actually two stories in one.

      1. EU allows patenting of medical procedures on cellular level (it would be patentable if it was for the "benefit" of the embryo.
      2. EU adopted US-style "embryos are babies!!!" bullshit. The only reason why it was not patentable was because it affects "dignity" of embryo. Remainder of sanity prevented them, so far, from charging anyone with murder, however they can't possibly avoid this line of reasoning unless they will reverse the whole thing.

      • by tsa (15680)

        OMG. It seemed too good to be true already and now my belief in the saneness of the EU has vanished completey. I would emigrate, but Europe is still the best place to live in on this planet.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        re 2) Actually, no. Rather than taking any politically debatable stance on what does or does not consitute a human being, the judges made the only objective decision: it is human from conception onward. They did not use "baby" or "person" anywhere in their ruling. They used "human".

        Regardless of your hyperbole, "the Court points out firstly that it is not called upon to broach questions of a medical or ethical nature". And second "the Court notes that the grant of a patent for an invention implies, in princ

      • Looks more like "Yes, you can patent the treatments you invent, as with all drugs, but you cannot patent the method of research itself just because it is hard and need special equipment instead of a lab rat and a scalpal."

      • by Zironic (1112127)

        Huh? It's important to realize that the EU only regulates economic policies, not criminal ones. The member states have full independence on how they want to define murder.

        Secondly the relevant law referred to is this:
        Article 6

        1. Inventions shall be considered unpatentable where their commercial exploitation would be contrary to ordre public or morality; however, exploitation shall not be deemed to be so contrary merely because it is prohibited by law or regulation.

        2. On the basis of paragraph 1, the followi

        • Forbidding death penalty for all EU members can be interpreted as criminal policy

          • No, that's not entirely correct. The country must have stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. The criteria [eu-oplysningen.dk] are not clear cut however.

            The ban on capital punishment is part of the European Convention on Human Rights [coe.int]. The convention is a membership requirement for the Council of Europe, an entirely separate body that predates the European Union.

            It is generally understood that both membership of the CoE and ratification of the ECHR

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          "Dignity of an embryo" has absolutely nothing to do with economic policy.

      • Another poster, way up above, has already made reference to the eugenics programs of the Nazi party. That "dignity" thing has far less to do with any question of God's existence, than it has to do with the atrocities committed in the name of "science", before and during WW2.

        • by Alex Belits (437) *

          Another poster, way up above, has already made reference to the eugenics programs of the Nazi party.

          Nazi had no eugenics program. Germans were supposed to be perfect already.

          That "dignity" thing has far less to do with any question of God's existence, than it has to do with the atrocities committed in the name of "science", before and during WW2.

          That's bullshit. Embryos are not people.

          • Troll, much?

            The Nazis did indeed have eugenics. Why did you think they were trying to rid the world of the Jews?

            And, it doesn't matter whether you choose to believe that human embryos are not people. They are HUMAN. Try reading. The Euro prohibition specifically uses the word HUMAN. A human embryo is certainly not canine, or feline, or - whatever.

            • by Alex Belits (437) *

              The Nazis did indeed have eugenics. Why did you think they were trying to rid the world of the Jews?

              That is not eugenics. Nazi believed that they are the master race, and had to subjugate or remove the rest.

              And, it doesn't matter whether you choose to believe that human embryos are not people. They are HUMAN.

              So is human blood. And even human excrement, but blood is a better example because it's both human and alive, yet does not constitute a human life.

              Try reading. The Euro prohibition specifically uses the word HUMAN. A human embryo is certainly not canine, or feline, or - whatever.

              That's idiotic word games. I can just as well argue that dolls and portraits should be treated as people because they are HUMAN depictions.

              • I know, it's only wikipedia - but you can begin your education there. If you should so choose, you can study more in depth later. Eugenics. Hitler. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_eugenics [wikipedia.org]

                • by Alex Belits (437) *

                  It IS Wikipedia. Worse yet, it's a Wikipedia article on 20th century politics, something about as authoritative as scrawling on a public bathroom's stall. Most of the "references" it has, do not even have the word "eugenics" anywhere in the text. Nazi were concerned with "purity" of what they believed to be the master race. So was every racist over the whole history of mankind, and almost everyone before the concepts of "racism" and "xenophobia" became recognized and not just the default behavior. It was th

  • by rmstar (114746) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @03:15AM (#37759156)

    This is one of those things. Here the broken patent system came together with religion and superstition and the outcome is not good for anyone. Embryos are now considered full human beings before the law, which will have detrimental repercussions in law everywhere (for example, abortion law). Research on the use of stem cells will be seriously delayed, if not halted altogether, and not because of the lack of patents (which would, if anything, spur innovation by removing legal risks).

    There are a lot of therapies for serious illnesses that could be developed without these insane religious sensibilities. So much suffering for nothing.

    • by Zironic (1112127)

      You can't patent work that relies on embryonic stem cells, but you're free to research them as much as you want. This decision is about patents and only patents.

      This is because the EU only has the power to make economic decisions, like Patents. The actual criminal laws are made by the individual member states.

    • by jonbryce (703250)

      The EU has no powers over the actual laws on embryo experiments, or as the other side would call it, chopping up babies for spare parts. I'm pretty sure if you look at countries like Ireland or Portugal it is already illegal there.

  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @03:24AM (#37759190)

    In older days these kind of things would have been called "discovery" rather then "invention". I predict a future where people will claim to have invented math too. Oh wait, that would be software patents.

    • I predict a future where people will claim to have invented math too. Oh wait, that would be software patents.

      My sentiment exactly. And yet they still get allowed. Why? Are patent examiners ignorant of this fact?

    • by Khashishi (775369)

      It's a fuzzy line between discovery and invention.

  • "X" and "a method for creating X" are two entirely different things.

  • by EnsilZah (575600) <EnsilZah@nOSPaM.Gmail.com> on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @04:13AM (#37759398)

    I'm appalled at the reaction of the scientists, one guy basically said "We get funded by the public to do the research but how are we supposed to monetize it without patents?".
    This is not how I was brought up to believe science is supposed to be conducted.

    • by Zironic (1112127)

      Well, his argument was actually
      "If a company can't get a patent based on my research, how will I convince them to implement my research?"

      Though it sorta falls flat on its face. Companies fall over-themselves in the harsh competition to implement stuff that's out of patent protection.

      • Re:Science? (Score:4, Informative)

        by kwikrick (755625) on Wednesday October 19, 2011 @07:17AM (#37760304) Homepage Journal

        No, he's basically saying: Why research something that will never be used? No company is going to invest huge sums in technology that cannot be patented. A university cannot be expected (and will not get funded!) to work out the details needed for mass production, or run the expensive trials needed for FDA approval.

        • This is Europe. The FDA has no jurisdiction there.

        • Yeah this ruling is a very conservative pro-life ruling that prevents scientists from monetizing their inventions and essentially limits the rate of innovation. How can a researcher convince his university or company to invest money in something that they won't be able to earn any profit on? Yes, yes it's oh-so-terrible they want to make money on cures for the diseased, but that's freaking life.

          Despite what slashdot thinks, patents serve a very important purpose in a capitalistic society. While perhaps a

    • by pD-brane (302604)

      Don't twist the words, the exact quote is:

      We are funded to do research for the public good, yet prevented from taking our discoveries to the marketplace where they could be developed into new medicines.

      So he does not say "funded by the public", but "funded [...] for the public good", etc.

      Based on the actual quote you can give an argument for that this person is still an ass. Indeed, large parts of the funding are from the public, and therefore any inventions^H, ahum, discoveries(!) should be "returned" to the public immediately. There is still a market, medicines can be made from non-patented discoveries. If this is not possible, we are even in deeper shit that

  • A production process for a car can be patented, but not if you want to use the car for scientific research. Also, if the production process offends any one, sane or insane, then it is not patentable.

    Arbitrary???

    Patents are means to stimulate innovation, not stifle it!

    • by Zironic (1112127)

      Actually it's the use of car parts for industrial or commercial use that can't be patented. However you're allowed to patent the use of car parts to improve cars. Scientific Research is interpreted as being commercial/industrial use and thus can't be patented.

  • BBC article was kinda eye opener how this old, corrupt system works in people minds - as long as you don't have monopoly for something, you wont invest in it. Even if competition will invest and will produce treatements. Even if you will go bancrupt because of such thinking.

    This is usual "intellectual property" proponent's argument and have been struck down so many times. So why they return to it? Because it is just how they see it - everything in this world moves because of greed.

    No matter how big EU probl

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As a scientist myself, I am somewhat shocked by Prof. Bruestle's statement: "European researchers may conduct basic research, which is then implemented elsewhere in medical procedures, which will eventually be reimported to Europe. How do I explain this to my students?"

    Explain your student that this is what publicly funded research is meant for! When the method is not patented this means that everybody (yes, even in Europe) may implement it, and this is a good thing. And by the way: basic research was never

    • He needs to explain to his students that they can be rich beyond their wildest dreams because of their scientific discovery, sadly the court decision killed the dream. Actually he can explain to his student that it is a chicken and egg situation, without stem cells to begin with, there wouldn't be anything to implement with. Therefore, his scientific research will still have to be funded.

It is wrong always, everywhere and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. - W. K. Clifford, British philosopher, circa 1876

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