EPO, Opposition Division, decision dated 20 April 2010, revoking European patent 1 429 795 (open to appeal)
European patent 1 429 795 is directed to a method for producing an extract from Pelargonium sidoides and/or Pelargonium reniforme, characterized by subjecting the roots of the plants to certain steps in order to obtain the extract. The description mentions that Pelargonium sidoides has been traditionally used in Southern Africa as a medicament for a long time.
The patent was opposed by several opponents on the grounds of lack of novelty, lack of inventive step and lack of sufficiency of disclosure. In addition, opponents African Centre for Biosafety and Erklärung von Bern relied on the grounds that the invention was contrary to “ordre public” and morality within the meaning of Art. 53 (a) EPC. They submitted that pelargonium roots in sufficient quantities as well as the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities had been available in South Africa and that the invention was based in essence on this fortunate circumstance. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the proprietor was obliged to respect, when making and when exploiting the invention, to comply with the criteria of “previous informed consent” and “benefit sharing” as stipulated in Art. 8(j), 15 and 16 CBD. The proprietor had not shown that he had acted in conformity with these requirements.