Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting for November 2012 and the Final Verdict on Brüstle v. Greenpeace e.V.

The German Federal Court of Justice (“BGH”) finally announced that it will decide in the case Brüstle v. Greenpeace e.V. on November 27, 2012.

The case was described and discussed here at PredictER News, December 13, 2012 and June 11, 2012. The court will adjudicate more than two years after it requested preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on December 17, 2009 (Case Xa ZR 58/07, now changed to X ZR 58/07), and a year after the ECJ’s decision in Case C-34/10 regarding the interpretation of Art. 6 of the Directive 98/44/EC on October 18, 2011.

The BGH’s decision will not only influence the question of whether or not patents can be gained on inventions which are based on embryonic stem cells, but it will also impact embryonic stem cell research in general. In addition to the German Patent Protection Act, the German Embryonic Protection Act (“ESchG”) is also based on Directive 98/44/EC.

The ESchG prohibits research with embryos, see Paragraph 2 ESchG, but not research with embryonic stem cells. However, Paragraph 2 ESchG has to be interpreted in the terms of the ECJ decision now. As a result, and with ECJ's broad interpretation of the Directive and definition of embryos research with human embryonic stem cells might be prohibited in Germany. In other words, embryonic stem cells would have to be treated as embryos and, as such, research would be prohibited. This prohibition would include even basic research on embryonic stem cells.

Therefore, the German jurisdiction as well as the legislature should examine how the ESchG should be interpreted in future. A change or amendment to the ESchG's definition of embryos should also be deliberated, because under German law, the use of the term "embryo" and its impact on stem cell research needs clarification. Because the ECJ has not directly prohibited embryonic stem cell research, but has persisted in broadly defining "embryo," other than the ECJ the BGH has to take the consequences of its verdict for embryonic stem cell research into consideration.

It still remains to be seen what will happen on November 27, 2012 and what consequences the decision will have on embryonic stem cell research.

-- Bianca Buechner, Ph.D., LL.M. Candidate
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

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