Patenting of Human Stem Cell-Based Inventions: Ethical Issues Including and Beyond the Morality Clause

  • Göran Hermerén
Part of the Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine book series (STEMCELL)


Using the goals of patent law as a starting point, controversies over patent applications are put in a wider ethical and societal context. I argue that ethical aspects are relevant in three phases: (1) before the patent application is granted, when the conditions of patentability are applied to concrete cases; (2) in the patent law, especially in interpretation and application of the so-called ”morality clause” in the European Patent Convention; (3) but also after patents have been granted. Differences between different patent systems are mentioned briefly, and the choice between more liberal and more restrictive policies is obviously not ethically neutral.

After a brief discussion of the relations between patents, economy and politics, some current criticisms of patent and patent law are discussed. Internal criticism, more or less accepting the premises of the system and trying to improve it, is distinguished from more radical, external criticism, which challenges one or several of the premises of the current patent system. This paves the way for a discussion of future relations between ethics and patent law. Some problems of definition and interpretation, again highlighting the role of values in the controversies over patents, are indicated, and the chapter concludes with a discussion of the present and future relations between EGE (European Group on Ethics) and EPO (European Patent Office).


Ethics Patents Stem cells Morality clause Biotech directive 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Göran Hermerén
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Medical EthicsLund University Biomedical CentreLundSweden

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