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Stem cell patent dispute

Greenpeace in Germany challenges a stem cell patent granted to a leading researcher

Jane Burgermeister(janeburgermeister@yahoo.co.uk)

The German arm of the environmental lobby group Greenpeace is disputing a patent awarded earlier this year to a leading researcher on the grounds that it allows the commercial exploitation of human stem cells.

The organization filed a notice of opposition with the German Patent Office on Wednesday (October 20) against a patent granted in May to Oliver Brüstle from the University of Bonn. The patent covers a cell culture method related to a process for deriving neural cells from embryonic stem cells.

"Researchers do not need to file a patent," Greenpeace stem cell expert Christoph Then told The Scientist. "People who file a patent do so because they see business opportunities, but the commercial exploitation of human embryonic stem cells is banned."

Greenpeace believes the outcome of the case could have major implications for patent law both in Germany and in Europe. "It will be the first time...

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