Oral proceedings at the European Patent Office in opposition proceedings relating to a patent for corn plants with improved oil composition

February 11, 2003

Munich, 10 Feb 2003

Oral proceedings for DuPont patent due to start in Munich on 12 February

Wednesday, 12 February sees the start of oral proceedings at the European Patent Office (EPO) in the opposition proceedings against a patent for corn plants with improved oil composition owned by DuPont. The oral proceedings will decide whether the patent should be maintained, amended or revoked. Opposition has been lodged by the government of Mexico, Misereor (an overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Germany), and Greenpeace Germany.

Granted by the European Patent Office in August 2000, the patent concerned is valid in Italy, France and Spain, three of the 26 countries which make up the member states of the European Patent Organisation.

It relates to an invention in the field of plant biology which describes maize produced by cross-pollinating a male parent plant having a particularly high oil content with a female parent plant altered through chemical mutagenesis. The oil content of the maize, at least 55% of which must be oleic acid, is greater than 6%. The patent specification states that the maize plants used in the mutation breeding were developed at Iowa State University and the University of Illinois (USA).

The opponents allege that the patent does not meet the requirements of Article 54 of the European Patent Convntion (EPC), which governs the novelty of an invention. According to that article, an invention is considered to be new only if does not form part of the state of the art. Public discussion has focused on whether maize having the characteristics described in the patent was already known, for example in Mexico.

An independent Opposition Division at the EPO will decide on the case on the basis of the provisions of the EPC.

Notes for journalists

The contested patent is European patent No. 744 888, entitled "Corn plants and products with improved oil composition".

The oral proceedings are scheduled to start at 09.00 hrs on 12 February 2003 at the EPO building in Bayerstrasse 34, 80335 Munich.

Oral proceedings are an integral part of the opposition proceedings provided for under the European Patent Convention, which allows anyone to object to a European patent. Oppositions are lodged against around 6% of the European patents granted every year. The opposition period expires nine months after the date of grant. In special proceedings involving all the opposing parties the EPO Opposition Division is called upon to decide whether the contested patent should be maintained, amended or revoked. In the present case the Opposition Division comprises four members, three of whom are technically qualified and one legally qualified. The parties have the right to appeal against the decision of the Opposition Division before an EPO Technical Board of Appeal.

Further information may be obtained from:

Rainer Osterwalder
Press Office European Patent Office
D-80298 Munich

Tel.: +4989/2399-5012
Fax: +4989/2399-2850
Mobile: +49173/9461630
e-Mail: rosterwalder@epo.org

Copyright © 1996-2002 European Patent Office . All Rights Reserved.

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