Primate embryonic stem cell research patents held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) are not valid, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office. After re-examining the patents, the agency ruled that WARF's methods for isolating a primate stem cell line were obvious based on previous work, and therefore not patentable. The decision, announced yesterday (April 2), was met with widespread enthusiasm among the scientists and consumer groups who have long argued the patents severely -- and unjustly -- limited research. Because of WARF's patents, "academic scientists were having difficulty getting stem cell lines," John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, one of the groups who asked the PTO to re-examine the patents, told The Scientist. "I think [this decision] is going to free things up tremendously."This decision creates an "earthquake" in the stem cell community, agreed Michael West, president and chief scientific officer...

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