On the 10 March 2011, the Advocates General of the European Court of Justice [ECJ] gave an opinion on the interpretation of Article 6(2)(c) of the Directive 98/44/EC. This opinion concerns the patentability of embryonic stem cells, as summarized below:
- The concept of the human embryo starts from the fertilized embryo and extends through to the development of the human body. Manipulation of an unfertilized human ovum that results in a totipotent cell(s) capable of developing into a human is also to be considered a human embryo.
- Pluripotent embryonic stem cells do not themselves have the capacity to develop into a human being, and on these grounds are not included within the meaning of “the concept of the human embryo”;
- However, not only “the use of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes” must be excluded from patentability, but also inventions whose practise necessitates the prior destruction of human embryos or their use as starting material must be excluded from patentability.