Reality-Check
January 15, 2015
Patently false: The militant organic hype machine chokes on a tomato patent

mons_9132Here we go again…

While most of Europe and the U.S. were celebrating the holidays, certain websites associated with “natural” causes were celebrating the “revocation” by the European Patent Office of a “fraudulent” Monsanto patent on a tomato seed.  Typical was SustainablePulse.com, which claimed Monsanto was “slammed for ‘Fraudulent’ EU Patent on Non-GMO Tomatoes.” (Just savour their outrage a moment for full effect.)

An Austrian website suggested that Monsanto had cheated in its application, claiming that the tomato seed was the product of biotechnology so that it would qualify for the patent.

What really happened? In fact, Monsanto itself asked the European Patent Office to revoke the patent after the company decided to abandon it for technical and business reasons. This kind of thing happens all the time. As our legal team informed this blog: This case involved a patent for a botrytis resistant tomato.  Botrytis is a destructive fungal disease. The application was filed with the European Patent Office and prosecuted in Denmark. After the patent was issued in our favour, an opposition was filed against the patent by Nunhems. Monsanto ultimately made the decision to voluntarily withdraw the patent. The formal action by the EPO was the revocation of the patent on request of the patentee (Monsanto). Revocation is the formal and correct term used by the EPO even when it is on request of the patentee. There was no independent cause for the revocation nor was it punitive in any way.

It is unfortunate and somewhat anarchistic that self-appointed activist groups routinely disparage the decisions of the European Patent Office as if it didn’t know what it was doing. In our experience, there are no better trained or more skilled, both legally and technically, patent examiners than those that work at the EPO. In this case, the
patent claims were examined by EPO patent examiners and found to meet all of the legal requirements of European patent law, including novelty and inventiveness, which is why the patent was issued in the first place.

We hope most people aren’t fooled by the activist hype, and invite people who want to know more to consult reliable information sources, not activist hype sites.

 

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