Munich, 24.11.2011 – The European Patent Office (EPO) will today take a decision on a patent on animal breeding (EP1257168). XY LLC, a subsidiary of the US company Inguran LLC, is claiming a process to select the sex of offspring in animal breeding. For this purpose, the sperm cells are sorted by a technical device. The sperm selected through this process are then claimed as an invention.
The patent could greatly impact animal breeding and agriculture because artificial insemination is widely used in cattle and pig breeding. Other companies have likewise already applied for patents on breeding material and farm animals. This patent might now become a precedent in animal breeding in the same way that the patents on broccoli and tomato were a precedent in plant breeding.
“The EPO has to take a decision about whether biological material that is just selected by a technical process can become an invention. If this is the case, then maybe in future large animals that are separated by specific technical processes from smaller animals will be patentable as an industrial invention,” says Ruth Tippe from No Patents on Life in an attempt to explain the absurdity of these patents. “Patents on conventional breeding are not allowed, but the EPO is interpreting the existing prohibitions in such a way that they become meaningless.”
In 2005, members of the Green Group in the European Parliament and Greenpeace filed oppositions to this patent. The patent caused much public debate because in its original form it even covered sex selection in humans. In the meantime, this part of the claim, which was opposed especially by Greenpeace, has been revoked. However, the processes used in animal breeding and selected sperm cells are still part of the patent. Green members of the European Parliament are not only demanding that the patent be revoked entirely, but are also pushing for general clarification within patent law: “The Green Group in the European Parliament is urging the EU Commission to state in public that plants, animals and breeding material necessary for conventional breeding cannot be patented. These patents are not about inventions. Patent law is being abused to take control over breeding, agriculture and food production. If these kind of patents are not stopped, we demand a change in European patent law,” says Martin Häusling on behalf of the Green Group.
The international coalition „No Patents on Seeds“ is also urging change in European Patent Law in order to exclude patents on plants and animals completely. These demands are already supported by more than 200 organisations (www.no-patents-on-seeds.org). The public hearing on the XY LLC patent takes place at the EPO in Munich, Erhardtstr. 27, room 111, it starts at 9 a.m.. It is possible that this patent will be forwarded to the Enlarged Board of Appeal like the patent on tomatoes. But it is also possible that the patent is revoked only after short hearing, because just before the hearing, the EPO presented a publication that indicates the technical process as claimed is not new but already published before the patent application.
Contacts for the hearing at the EPO: Christoph Then + 49-151-54638040, Ruth Tippe: Tel: +49-172-8963858 For the Greens in the European Parliament: Martin Häusling, Tel: +32 2 284 58 20 More infos about patents on plants and animals: www.no-patents-on-seeds.org