Germany's belated attempt to bring its biotechnology patent law into compliance with a European Union Directive issued in 1998 appears to contradict what the EU mandated, meaning the issue could end up being debated in the European Court of Justice, according to a patent and property rights expert.

Joseph Straus, managing director of the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition, and Tax Law, told The Scientist that a biotechnology amendment approved last Friday (December 3) by Germany's Bundestag, or lower house of Parliament, would limit patent protection on human gene sequences to "disclosed functions" at the time of the patent application.

That means that under German law, a patent awarded to a scientist awarded on a human DNA sequence used for a specific function would not cover a second function discovered later by another researcher using the same DNA sequence, Straus said.

This contradicts the intent of the...

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