Broccoli, tomatoes in landmark patent case

20th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The European Patent Office (EPO) on Tuesday began reviewing patents controversially given to two methods of growing broccoli and tomatoes, in what was set to be a landmark hearing.

Two firms filed motions against the patents, awarded in 2000 and 2002 respectively, claiming that they constituted what the plaintiffs said were natural or "essentially biological" processes and were therefore not patentable.

One patent was given to a British firm Plant Bioscience Ltd, which said its method could increase in broccoli levels of a substance that could potentially help prevent cancer.

The other was given to Israel's agriculture ministry for a method of breeding tomatoes with reduced water content.

The review board, which was holding a preliminary two-day meeting at its Munich, Germany headquarters, was likely to publish its decision by the end of the year, the EPO said.

The EPO said that it could "only examine whether a patent application concerns a technical development which is new and industrially applicable and involves an inventive step."

It is not authorised or able to assess its social, economic or ecological implications, it stressed, since that is a task for legislators and for the relevant European and national regulatory authorities.

© 2010 AFP

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