A law has been introduced in Germany's Bundestag, or lower house of parliament, that would make it easier for researchers and companies to obtain patents in the field of biotechnology and would finally bring Germany into compliance with a European Directive issued in 1998.

The bill, which was given a first reading last week (March 11) in the Bundestag, was introduced by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder';s ruling coalition of the Social Democrat and Green parties. It would grant commercial rights for gene sequences but allow scientists free use of those patented sequences for research purposes.

“It is an improvement on the present state of the law,” Joseph Straus, managing director of the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property, Competition and Tax Law, told The Scientist, “and it would bring Germany in line with EU guidelines.”

He said a declaration calling for a new patent law, made early last year, would...

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