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Raise Your Glass to the Monopoly — New Article About the European Patent Office Losing It on Patent Scope

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Prost auf das Monopol

Summary: For purposes of long-term preservation and information, “Prost auf das Monopol” in English is hereby being published

“Here is a translation of the article that recently appeared in the Austrian KURIER,” a reader told us, having spent some time on the text whose English translation we've craved. This article (original text in German) does implicate the EPO.

“As you already noticed,” said this translator, “there is not really anything new in this article. The controversial barley patents were granted back in November 2016.

“However, the article may be significant not so much for its “news value” but because it seems to be the first sign that the Austrian media is starting to take a deeper interest in EPO matters. There has been little or no reporting about EPO matters in the Austrian media to date.

“In case anybody wants to contact the Kurier journalist to provide him with more material his e-mail address is andreas.anzenberger@kurier.at

Raise your glass to the monopoly !

Patents on brewing barley have been granted in Europe.
The threat of the monopolization of food production is looming.

Andreas Anzenberger

The European Patent Office is working on the Americanisation of agriculture in the European Union. Three patents on varieties of malting barely have been granted to the brewery firms Carlsberg and Heineken. The patents also cover the beers produced from the barley. If one can register a patent for the breeding of new varieties of malting barley, this also applies to all commercially usable plants.


“For years, seed companies like Monsanto have been trying to get patents on fruit and vegetables,” warns Michel Reimon, MEP for the Green Party. So far, as many as 200 patent applications for plant cultivation have been granted worldwide. Some of these have been issued by the European Patent Office, including patents on specific varieties of broccoli and tomatoes.

Taking a joint approach

On 20 February 2017 the EU Member States decided to jointly challenge patents on plants and animals. The European Patent Office is to change its existing practice of issuing patents. On this issue environmental organizations, Austrian plant breeders, political parties and the EU Commission are all in agreement: patents represent a dangerous step towards the monopolization of the supply of foodstuffs and beverages in Europe.


Because of this several non-governmental organizations have filed an objection to the granting of the patents. “Carlsberg and Heineken are trying to expand their market power at the expense of consumers, farmers and other breweries,” is the criticism of Georg Janssen, Managing Director of the Traditional Farming Association.

Patents for plant cultivation are common in the USA. The cultivation and propagation of the patented varieties is prohibited. In Europe, on the other hand, a different rule applies: It is only forbidden to grow and sell the varieties. This is called the Breeder’s Privilege. However, it is permitted to use competitor’s varieties for further breeding. It is therefore impossible to achieve a monopoly on such plants in the EU.

Genetic engineering

In Europe patents are available solely for genetically modified plant varieties. However, these are only cultivated to a limited extent.

The protests of the EU have so far shown no effect. The European Patent Office’s self-perception was revealed by its President, Benoit Battistelli, in an interview with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit: “If you are the director of a national Patent Office, you are obliged to report to a Ministry, to a Parliament. I manage a politically independent institution.”

Battistelli’s adversaries have given him the nickname “Sonnenkönig”.

The KURIER made enquiries with the branch of the European Patent Office in Vienna. The answer came promptly: The EPO has no media spokesperson for the subject of patents on plants. Written questions may be submitted.

We are going to deal separately with some of the articles cited therein (above). These merit other posts, possibly left aside for another day as they are less urgent or relevant.

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