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The article addresses the issue of the ethics of patenting in human embryonic stem (hES) cells. The current stance of the European Patent Office in citing moral objections to patents on hES cells and the monopolistic scope of the Wisconsin Research Alumni Fund/Geron patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office represent twin obstacles to achieving an ethical balance in patent rights in this field. The particular issues and strategies around granting patents on hES cells can be better understood by placing them in the context of the biotechnology industry and its role in the global bioeconomy. Some possible avenues of redress are considered based on the potential to open up cell pluripotency as new terrain for intellectual property offered by new technological breakthroughs such as induced pluripotent cells. Any changes in patent law should be accompanied by increased collaboration through devices such as patent pools.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum Reprod

Publication Date





14 - 21


Biotechnology, Embryo Research, Embryonic Stem Cells, Humans, Patents as Topic, Pluripotent Stem Cells