Since the 1980s, over 3000 patents on plants and over 1600 patents on animals have been granted in Europe. About 10,000 patent applications on plants and more than 5,000 applications on animals have been filed to date and many of them are still pending. However, the process of patenting plants and animals, which began with the introduction of genetic engineering into plant breeding, now extends to conventional breeding as well: from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2019, approximately 450 patent applications for plants and plant varieties have been filed, with more than 200 patents granted by the EPO covering conventional breeding, and more than 1500 applications in this category, of which approximately half can still be granted.
The scope of many of the patents granted by the EPO often covers the entire food production chain, from seeds to agriculture, crop processing and food.
To gain an insight into the latest patent applications, No patents on seeds! has carried out a detailed search of international patent applications filed with the WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) via the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). Patent applications filed with WIPO can cover over 100 countries for which patent protection is sought. Based on figures from recent years, it can be estimated that two-thirds of patent applications on plants filed at WIPO also become European patent applications. About one third of European patent applications in this field will eventually be granted. You can find more information in our latest report.
As an example, some patent cases can be found below: