NSAI Welcomes European Patent Office Ruling on Biotechnology Patents

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Chennai: Last week the Administrative Council of the European Patent Office (EPO) voted for a change in the regulations of the European Patent Convention (EPC) which states that European patents shall not be granted in respect of plants or animals exclusively obtained by means of an essential biological process[i].

The EPO ruling gives clarity on product and further defines “the new variety” developed through breeding, which is an essential biological process. The decision that it is not a subject matter of patent is a very important milestone in interpretation of IPR laws.

“The NSAI congratulates the European Seed Association for leading this battle on behalf of the plant breeders and advocating for a solution to re-establish the balance between patents and plant breeders’ rights,” said Dr Kalyan Goswami, Executive Director, National Seed Association of India. “This decision allows breeders to continue their regular breeding work, based on crossing and selection without worrying about access to genetic diversity and traits produced both biotechnological and conventional breeding process.”

“The European Seed Association (ESA) has been leading the way against an overly restrictive patent regime that denies farmers and breeders any rights or freedom in creating new varieties using natural / biological methods,” said Mr. M Prabhakar Rao, President, National Seed Association of India. “As a national level seed association we have always advocated for the rights of farmers and breeders and this regulation validates our stand and proves it is in line with the principles of natural justice.”

The Indian Patents Act, 1970 clearly states that genes used for developing Genetically Modified traits can be patented under Indian law to the extent of identification, isolation, characterization, insertion process, detection of the gene or its components which cause modification of gene expression by genetic engineering. However once the genes are artificially introduced into a plant, the transformed cell or a tissue or the transgenic plants or its seeds become subject matter of PVPFR Act and are out of purview of Indian Patent Act