The Public Patent Foundation that is affiliated to the Cordozo School of Law, Yeshiva University has persuaded the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel a human embryonic stem cells patent held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), as lacking in inventive step.
The USPTO’s Board of Appeals and Interferences agreed that the creation of human embryonic stem cell lines was obvious in the light of work that had been done with animal stem cells.
The philosophical ramifications of the case are fascinating. Everyone agrees that for something to be patentable, it must be new, useful and non-obvious. The USPTO board’s April 28 decision is based on what is possible for other mammals is possible and obvious for Man.
Implicit in Yeshiva University’s arguments is the assumption that human and animal cells are patentably similar. So much for creation of man at the end of the Sixth day, in a separate creative act, with Man being in the image of God.
Now, for many Christians, there may be something advantageous in doing research using stem cell lines as a pose to creating fresh stem cells by harvesting (killing) embryos, since embryos are considered by them as being human beings from the moment of conception. For Jews however, a fertilized ovule is considered as a potential human being only from day 40 when tissue forms. So saving embryos by voiding this patent and putting the technology in the public domain is of little interest to the Public Patent Forum.
“We’ve said from the very beginning that WARF’s patents on stem cells are undeserved,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT Executive Director. “Should WARF continue to try to defend their unjustified patents, we will continue to prove them invalid.”
Joining PUBPAT and Consumer Watchdog in the challenge was Dr. Jeanne Loring, now director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Scripps Institute. “This is great news for medical research. Human embryonic stem cells hold great promise for advancing human health, and no one has the ethical right to own them.” claims Dr. Loring. This is, of course, a totally different argument.
The PTO Board of Appeals decision is available here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/WARFDecision042910.pdf