Patentability of Plants: At the Crossroads between Monopolizing Nature and Protecting Technological Innovation?



This article provides an in-depth critical analysis of pressing issues regarding the patentability of plants. There is no public interest overarching principle present in the European Patent Convention or any other convention for that matter which would exclude patent protection for plants. The expansionist behavior of some users of the patent system seeking to obtain patent protection for methods and products which are very akin to traditional breeding methods needs to be halted and patent applications in that context deserve very close scrutiny so as to avoid that the border is crossed. Patents for hybrid seeds ought not to be protected by patents, as they in effect protect plant varieties as such. If the patent system is not capable of keeping such innovations outside of the patent territory, the call for excluding all plant-related innovations from patentability will become more influential. Products produced by essentially biological processes should not be patentable. However, in the absence of a statutory basis, the current legal framework does not allow the judiciary to come to such conclusion. The EPC needs to be amended in this respect. Finally, introducing a breeders' exemption in the patent system could jeopardize the internal and external architecture of the patent system and one should be wary of introducing it.