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Guidelines for Examination

List of exceptions (Rule 28)

In the area of biotechnological inventions, the following list of exceptions to patentability under Art. 53(a) is laid down in Rule 28. The list is illustrative and non-exhaustive and is to be seen as giving concrete form to the concept of "ordre public" and "morality" in this technical field.

Under Art. 53(a), in conjunction with Rule 28, European patents are not to be granted in respect of biotechnological inventions which concern:

Processes for cloning human beings 

For the purpose of this exception, a process for the cloning of human beings may be defined as any process, including techniques of embryo splitting, designed to create a human being with the same nuclear genetic information as another living or deceased human being (EU Dir. 98/44/EC, rec. 41).

Processes for modifying the germ line genetic identity of human beings 
Uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes 

A claim directed to a product, which at the filing date of the application could be exclusively obtained by a method which necessarily involved the destruction of human embryos from which the said product is derived is excluded from patentability under Rule 28(c), even if said method is not part of the claim (see G 2/06). The point in time at which such destruction takes place is irrelevant.

When examining subject-matter relating to human embryonic stem cells under Art. 53(a) and Rule 28(c), the following has to be taken into account:

the entire teaching of the application, not only the claim category and wording, and
the relevant disclosure in the description in order to establish whether products such as stem cell cultures are obtained exclusively by the use, involving the destruction, of a human embryo or not. For this purpose, the disclosure of the description has to be considered in view of the state of the art at the date of filing.

The exclusion of the uses of human embryos for industrial or commercial purposes does not affect inventions for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes which are applied to the human embryo and are useful to it (EU Dir. 98/44/EC, rec. 42).

Processes for modifying the genetic identity of animals which are likely to cause them suffering without any substantial medical benefit to man or animal, and also animals resulting from such processes 

The substantial medical benefit referred to above includes any benefit in terms of research, prevention, diagnosis or therapy (EU Dir. 98/44/EC, rec. 45).

In addition, the human body, at the various stages of its formation and development, and the simple discovery of one of its elements, including the sequence or partial sequence of a gene, cannot constitute patentable inventions (see, however, G-II, 5.2). Such stages in the formation or development of the human body include germ cells (EU Dir. 98/44/EC, rec. 16).

Also excluded from patentability under Art. 53(a) are processes to produce chimeras from germ cells or totipotent cells of humans and animals (EU Dir. 98/44/EC, rec. 38).