The Intellectual Property Office (“IPO”) has stated that it will not grant patents for inventions which have been created as the result of the destruction of human embryos. Its decision has been made in light of a ruling by the European Court of Justice, which was asked to make a ruling in respect of the EU Biotech Directive.
The Directive, which has been implemented into English law by virtue of the Patents Act 1977, allows for elements isolated from the human body to be patented, even where it is identical to a natural element. The European Court interpreted the Directive to render any invention incapable of attracting patent protection where human embryos have been destroyed during any stage and even where their use is not mentioned.
The IPO pointed out that inventions which involve the use of human stem cells not originating from embryos are still capable of being patented. The European Court held that the term “human embryo” included any organism which could develop into a human being, giving the example of both a fertilised and a non-fertilised ovum.