Patenting of Human Stem Cell-Based Inventions: Can There be Technological Solutions to a Moral Dilemma?

  • Aliki Nichogiannopoulou
Part of the Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine book series (STEMCELL)


Patents are a means of securing returns – if any – from one’s intellectual property. In the evolving intellectual property landscape it has become increasingly clear that biotechnology is not just another field of technology. Especially the field of stem cell biotechnology, as a prime example of translational research, has been pressing this very point. Legislation evolves at a slower pace than the emergence of new technologies in this field, rendering the task of keeping abreast equally challenging for legislators, scientists, innovators and the lay public. The fact that a human embryo is the primordial source of human embryonic stem cells, renders the ethical, legal, philosophical and scientific evaluation of the framework within which we manoeuvre, full of challenges. Given the political consequences of such considerations, the scientific community has attempted to overcome some of the points raised by technical innovations that have themselves become the subject of patent applications. The European Patent Office – the patent granting authority for Europe with a mission to support innovation, competitiveness and economic growth for the benefit of the citizens of Europe – is faced with the challenge of deciding which of these overcome the issues and which do not. Several questions remain unanswered while technology advances posing new ones. The debate is ongoing, as is the synergy between science and society in the quest for universally ethical or ethically universal human embryonic stem cells.


Stem cells Patents European Patent Office Moral dilemma Case law 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aliki Nichogiannopoulou
    • 1
  1. 1.European Patent OfficeMunichGermany

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