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05.12.18

Patents on Life (or Supposed ‘Gene-Editing’/CRISPR) Are a Gross Distortion of the Raison D’être of Patents

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 9:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Life is made in nature, it’s not a robot and it is definitely not an invention

Patents on life
No Patents on Seeds: Stop patents on plants and animals!

Summary: The complete and utter insanity which is misappropriation of patent law for protectionism in an age of monopolies on life (DNA/genetics) in light of recent developments

THIS Saturday afternoon onwards we intend to catch up with USPTO news. It is mostly about patent scope and policy, not scandals. Like the EPO, the American (US) patent office is at least in theory denying patents on nature; in practice, loopholes remain and they are occasionally being exploited. We have been writing about it for many years because other than software patents, one family (or class) of patents we strongly object to is “nature” or “life” or “genetics” (there are other words by which to refer to this kind of patents).

As noted here earlier this month, patents on life itself are being discussed at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). This is a positive thing because we generally respect the judgments of this court, which would likely take Mayo and Myriad into account. The latest twist in all this has just been discussed in relation to a Broad Institute case and PTAB. A site of the patent microcosm said this:

The UC v Broad Institute appeal hinges on whether the PTAB made any legal errors by deciding the case in favour of Broad without “substantial evidence”, with observers believing an affirmance of the Board’s ruling is most likely

The Federal Circuit heard oral arguments in University of California (UC) v Broad Institute on April 30. A decision is expected within 90 days.

Another site of the patent microcosm, masking/hiding more and more of its pages behind a paywall these days (like the above), wrote about “top 10 CRISPR patent assignees at the world’s big five issuing agencies” (IP5). Timothy Au of IAM (blog of patent trolls) is still promoting patents on life that both the EPO and USPTO are more or less denying (Broad Institute recently had a CRISPR patent rejected by the EPO).

The USPTO is the most willing of the major patent offices to grant CRISPR-related patents, but activity in the field is increasing most rapidly in Asia, new research commissioned for IAM reveals. Earlier this year, iRunway produced a report on the CRISPR patent landscape – which we provided exclusive coverage on – analysing the geographical spread, technological focuses and top owners of the patents related to the much-discussed gene-editing technology. New research by iRunway, commissioned by IAM, now offers a more detailed breakdown of where things stand.

It says “commissioned by IAM,” but remember who’s funding IAM. It ain’t pretty. This is behind a paywall, but we can imagine what the outcome will be. It should be noted that only days ago IAM complained once again about India, which already disallows software patents, because it had denied patents on life, namely seeds. Citing [1-4] (below), IAM said [5] that “India’s agricultural industry have downplayed the decision’s importance” (by “India’s agricultural industry” he didn’t mean India’s but Germany’s/US and he was not talking about agricultural anything but merely Monsanto with its ‘industry’ of lawsuits against actual farmers). This is typical IAM.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Monsanto loses right to patent seeds

    Delhi High Court’s ruling which forbids Monsanto from stopping supplies to seed companies is a boost to domestic seed companies, and will curb the ability of multinationals to establish a seed monopoly

  2. Supreme Court to hear Monsanto plea over GM cotton patents

    Section 3(j) states that “plants and parts thereof as well as essentially biological process for production or propagation of plants” are not inventions that can be patented. The court had also directed Monsanto to seek intellectual property protection under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right (PPVFR) Act 2001. It had given Monsanto three months to appeal to the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority for relief under the PPVFR Act.

  3. Supreme Court rejects Monsanto plea on seed patent order

    The Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay a 2 May Delhi high court order which held that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented under Indian law by companies like Monsanto Inc., and that royalties on genetically modified (GM) technology would be decided by a specialized agency of the agriculture ministry.

    As a result, the patent held by Monsanto, through its Indian arm Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech Ltd (MMBL) over its Bollgard-II Bt cotton seed technology, a GM variant which resists the bollworm pest, was decreed to be unenforceable in India.

    Monsanto’s appeal challenging the Delhi high court order was brought before a bench headed by Justice Rohinton F. Nariman who sought the response of seed companies over the issue.

  4. Delhi High Court’s Judgment in Monsanto v. Nuziveedu Delivers a Deadly Blow to the Agro-biotech Industry

    A Division Bench of the Delhi High Court recently pronounced its judgment in the long running litigation between Monsanto and Nuziveedu. The present judgment was delivered in cross appeals filed by both parties against the order of a single judge of the Delhi High Court that was delivered last year.

    To describe the judgment briefly, the court has delivered a knock-out punch to Monsanto, by declaring invalid its patent for Bt. Technology because Section 3(j) of the Patents Act prohibited the grant of patents for plants, plant varieties or seeds or any part thereof. The court however does give three months to Monsanto to seek protection for its invention under the Plant Variety Protection & Farmer’s Rights Act, 2002. (I’ll deal with this issue in a later post)

  5. India’s Supreme Court will hear Monsanto’s challenge to a recent ruling imperiling agri-tech patentability

    The case has generated a strong reaction over the past three weeks. Over at Spicy IP, Prashant Reddy described it as a “deadly blow to the agro-biotech industry”. The former CEO of Indian seed company Advanta warned: “A number of patents of agriculture biotech inventions in various crops from wheat to rice that have been granted by various patent authorities across the globe stand the risk of being invalidated because of the judgment.”

    Meanwhile, representatives of India’s agricultural industry have downplayed the decision’s importance – they point out that innovations in the sector will still be eligible for plant variety protection.

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