The Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) of the European Patent Office, in effect the final decision making body on patents in Europe, has determined that plants or plant products produced by conventional breeding are not excluded from patentability under Article 53(b) EPC.
Two cases (the “broccoli” case – EP 1069819 and the “tomato” case – EP 1211926) were referred to the EBA to obtain clarification on whether plants or plant products produced by an excluded process are also excluded from patentability.
The broccoli patent belongs to a UK company, PBL, whilst the tomato patent is assigned to the State of Israel. Neither patent belongs to Monsanto, although Monsanto does license the broccoli patent from PBL.
The patent system is society’s way of encouraging innovation and fairly balancing the interests of inventors and wider society. The patent system is very successful at supporting and stimulating innovation in many fields from phones to cars, buildings, computers and medicines, to name just a few. We are pleased the European Patent Office agrees the benefits of patenting should be available to transformational plant breeders so society can reap the benefits from more innovative crops, delivering better harvests using less resources.