Proceedings were stayed by EPO president Benoît Battistelli in November last year, while the office decided how to deal with an intervention from the European Commission, which said that plant and animal varieties obtained by ‘essentially biological’ processes are not patentable in the EU.
The EPO’s administrative council amended Rules 27 and 28 of the European Patent Convention to stay in line with the European Commission’s recommendations.
The amended rules apply to European patent applications filed on or after 1 July, as well as European patent applications and European patents pending at that time.
In 2015, the EPO upheld the validity of patents for breeding tomatoes and selectively increasing anti-carcinogenic glucosinolates in broccoli.
The EPO said that plant products such as fruits and seeds are patentable if they are obtained through “essentially biological” breeding methods.
In its intervention, the European Commission said that its original intention with Article 4(3) of the Directive on the Legal Protection of Biotechnological Inventions, which governs the patentability of animals and plants, was intended to rule out patents protecting essentially biological processes.