The patentability of living organisms between science, law and ethics.

L. Frati, R. Foà, P. Frati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The approval on May 1998 of the European Union (EU) directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions has aligned Europe to the international trend about the patenting of biotechnologies. Many questions are still unresolved, i.e. the differences between the article 53b of the European Patent Convention (EPC), which prohibits patenting of plants and animal varieties, whereas the directive states that Oinvention whose object are plants or animals may be patented if the practicability of the invention is not technically confined to a particular plant or animal varietyO (article 12). Again, the interpretation of plants or animal species specificity and that on the threatening public order and morality (which inhibits patenting) may have doubtful interpretations, according to the different EU States morality and law (e.g. Denmark does not admit patentability of transgenic animals). Despite difficulties, biotechnology Research and Development for applications to medicine, veterinary sciences, agriculture and foods is continuously growing. Bioethical independent evaluations of the applications of biotechnologies and of their side-effects (risk for biodiversity of plants and animals, safety of procedures to save mankind, respect of human dignity and of fundamental human rights, etc.) are mandatory to link the interests of science and industrial productions together with those of mankind. This is the original meaning given by van Potter to the word bioethics, as a bridge to the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalFORUM - Trends in Experimental and Clinical Medicine
Issue number3 Suppl 3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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