LONDON - When the European Commission threatened recalcitrant countries with legal action for failing to implement the EU's Biotech Directive in January, the genomics industry breathed a sigh of relief.
This is because the Biotech Directive mandates that the European Patent Office's clarity on genomics patents would apply to all patent infringement and validity cases in the courts of European countries.
And, the industry assumed, no country would wish to risk the ignominy of being taken to the European Court of Justice for failing to implement the directive after the Commission's warning.
However, these threats have resulted in little movement to implement the directive. On the contrary, in the face of an overwhelming tide,
The French Bioethics Bill is particularly contrary to the Biotech Directive. Unlike the Biotech Directive, which allows the patenting of isolated gene sequences where some utility is shown, the Bioethics Bill forbids the patenting of gene sequences. The French bill will allow the patenting of a specific technical application of a function of an element of gene sequence.
But the French government has made no attempt to suggest that the two pieces of legislation are compatible. In fact, French Health Minister Professor Matthei, a sponsor of the bill, suggests that the best way forward would be for the Biotech Directive to be interpreted in accordance with the Bioethics Bill.
The absurdity of this suggestion is clear: a European Directive which was duly passed after over a decade of negotiations, and which was unsuccessfully challenged in the highest
Where now after the French "Non"?
The French position is particularly surprising as
It will be interesting to see how the stand-off between the European Commission and
Alex Wilson is a senior assistant and Robert Burrows is an assistant in the BioPharma group of the