Munich – The European Patent Office put the brakes on Monsanto’s over-the-top corporate greed by revoking its species-wide patent on all genetically modified soybeans (EP0301749) – a patent unprecedented in its broad scope. ETC Group, an international civil society organization based in Canada, won its 13-year legal challenge against Monsanto’s species-wide soybean patent when an EPO appeal board ruled that the patent was not new or sufficient (i.e., the invention claimed was not sufficiently described for a skilled person to repeat it). The patent challenge was supported by Greenpeace and “No Patents on Life!” Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher of UK-based EcoNexus also joined the opposition team in Munich as a scientific expert.
The patent was vigorously and formally opposed by Monsanto itself until the company purchased the original patent assignee (Agracetus) in 1996. The technology related to the now-revoked patent has been used, along with other patents in the company’s portfolio, to corner 90% of the world’s GM soybean market. [For more information, see ETC Group News Release, “Monsanto’s Soybean Monopoly Challenged in Munich,” April 30, 2007 materials/publications.html?pub_id=616]
“It’s shameful that it took the European Patent office 13 years to kill Monsanto’s immoral patent, which was ultimately revoked on technical grounds. Though we’re relieved that the species-wide patent on all genetically modified soybeans – both seeds and plants – was not allowed to stand, the delay of more than a decade demonstrates just how broken the patent system is. The patent had barely a year to go before expiring!” said Hope Shand, who represented ETC Group in Munich today.
“It was particularly satisfying,” said Shand, “that Monsanto’s own blistering 1994 arguments against the patent were ultimately key in defeating it.” One of Monsanto’s top scientists testified in 1994 that the genetic engineering process described in the patent was insufficient to allow a skilled scientist to replicate the procedure – a necessary criterion for patentability.
ETC Group, which first challenged the patent in 1994 (as RAFI), was represented in Munich by UK barrister Daniel Alexander and patent attorney Tim Roberts of Brookes Batchellor, LLP.