Keywords: EPO, Melon Patent, Monsanto,
On 20 January 2016, following oral opposition proceedings, the
European Patent Office (EPO) has apparently revoked a European
patent held by Monsanto on certain virus-resistant melon plants. No
Patents on Seeds, a European-based coalition initiated by various
NGOs, was one of the groups in opposition to the melon patent,
based on notices received by the EPO in February 2012.
According to the FAQ section on the EPO's website, the
so-called "Melon Patent" (EP 1,962,578) relates to melon
plants resistant to a virus that attacks melons, turning them
yellow and reducing fruit yield. The plants are made resistant by
the introduction of a gene from another melon plant known to be
naturally resistant to the Cucurbit Yellow Stunting Disorder virus
(CYSDV) by way of a conventional breeding method involving the use
of a genetic marker. The Melon Patent covers the modified plant,
parts of the plant and its fruits and seeds, but not the breeding
process for obtaining the plant.
The patent application was filed with the EPO on 21 December
2006 and the grant of the patent became effective on 4 May 2011.
The patent has since been opposed by, inter alia, numerous
NGOs. No Patents on Seeds said in its statement: "The patent was granted by the
European Patent Office even though European patent law does not
allow patents on plant varieties and processes for conventional
breeding." The group added: "Essentially the application
of the patent constituted an act of biopiracy – violating
Indian law and international treaties." Pursuant to
information about the result of the oral proceedings that has been
released by the EPO, the patent has been revoked "because at
least one ground for opposition prejudices the maintenance of the
European Patent (Art. 101(2) EPC)." According to a report
issued by the website
IP-Watch.org, an undisclosed EPO official stated that the
patent has in particular been revoked because it was lacking
sufficient disclosure of the Invention.
Originally published on February 2, 2016
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