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Feb 12, 2001
 |  BioCentury  |  Politics, Policy & Law

Messages from Lyon

LYON - France will not implement Europe's biotech patents directive unless it is modified, President Jacques Chirac warned at BioVision World Life Sciences Forum here last week. While acknowledging that patents are important for industrial and economic prosperity, Chirac argued that very broad patents on the human genome may stifle innovation.
"Intellectual property remains a very effective engine of progress. But patents should limit the freedom to use a gene or a sequence of gene to the specific application or product envisaged," Chirac told the BioVision delegates.
The French leader is concerned that the European legislation (98/44/EC), which should have been transposed by member states into their own laws by June 2000, can prevent others from exploring other uses of the genes or sequences covered by a patent. "This is why France is calling on the European Commission to reexamine the European patents directive," he said.
France is not the only EU member to have dragged its heels on implementing the directive. Indeed, only the U.K., Ireland, Finland and Denmark have aligned their national laws. The Netherlands and Italy are challenging the directive in the European Court of Justice, while the Austrian Parliament has said it wants to postpone the implementation until the court has ruled.
Last October, the German government warned that the directive no longer may be adequate to deal with the rapid advances in biotech and so needs to be amended. In particular, the Germans argued that "the present directive is inadequate in dealing with the range of product patents, and the patentability of genes, gene-sequences and parts of gene-sequences derived from humans, animals, plants or micro-organisms."
Unlike France, however, the German government is making efforts to transpose the directive into its own...

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