In a fundamental decision on 27 November 2012 (BGH Decision of 27 November 2012, case no.: X ZR 58/07) the Bundesgerichtshof ruled that a patent (DE 197 56 864) registered in favour of the German stem cell researcher, Oliver Brüstle, is invalid in part.
The subject of the patent, which was applied for in 1997, is the protection of neural precursor cells and the procedure to cultivate these cells and use them in therapy of neural defects. Using the invention by Mr Brüstle upon which the patent is based, transplantation of neural precursor cells in the nervous system can play an important role in treating Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis in the future. Such neural precursor cells are usually obtained from embryonic stem cells and can then be used as transplant material.
The European Patent Office deemed that such neural precursor cells, the method for producing them and their use in therapy of neural defects were patentable, and in 1999 granted the patent which Oliver Brüstle applied for, and registered it in the patent register.
Greenpeace e.V. filed an action for annulment of this patent before the Federal Patent Court. According to Greenpeace the subject of this patent violated public policy and accepted principles of morality insofar as it concerned precursor cells which were developed from human embryonic stem cells. Use of such cells is also being discussed because the state of the art at the time destroyed the embryo when the neural precursor cells were produced.