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A brief overview over patents in the farm animal sector


Examples of patents on farm animals already granted in Europe

1. Dolly the cloned sheep

The European Patent Office granted the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh patent application EP 849 990 in 2001. A process of cloning mammals in which cell cores and oocytes are re-combined was patented. Originally intended mainly for medical research, processes for cloning farm animals are becoming increasingly important in agriculture. There are now discussions in the US and Europe on marketing cloned animals as food.

2. Super-salmon

The Canadian company, Seabright, also obtained a patent in 2001, when the patent with the number EP578653B1 being granted for salmon and other fish which have been manipulated with growth hormone genes. The patent specification shows that the fish grow eight times as fast as normal salmon. If such super-salmon escape into the environment there is a substantial risk they will displace natural salmon of the same species.

3. Sex selection in humans and animals

The US company XY Inc. was in 2005 granted patent EP 1257168, which covers a method for selecting sperma by sex for the artificial insemination of mammals – including people. Cattle, pigs and horses, in particular, are singled out in this patent. The deep-frozen sperm itself is also claimed as an invention. Greenpeace has filed an objection to the patent on ethical grounds. A second objection was made by Monsanto – the company claims similar processes to be its invention.

4. Genetically manipulated dairy cows

The first European patent on genetically manipulated dairy cows was granted in 2007. Under patent number EP 1330552 "inventors" from Belgium and New Zealand claim processes for breeding cows which give more milk or milk with altered constituents. The cows are produced either by genetic diagnosis ("marker assisted breeding“) and bred normally, or by having more milk genes additionally incorporated into their genome.

5. Monsanto's herd of pigs

Monsanto in 2005 filed two applications for extensive patents on breeding swine with the . world intellectual property organisation in Geneva. One patent, WO 2005/015989 (EP1651030), is concerned with business ideas for combining breeding methods already commonly practised. The processes specified are claimed, but the animals bred are themselves to be patented too. In patent WO 2005/017204 (EP 1651777) processes for genetic diagnoses on swine are described which are based on genetic information which is very broadly distributed—processes which are supposed to achieve improved growth. Here too the animals and "a pig herd" are themselves claimed. The applications were the subject of controversial discussion in Europe and the US after Greenpeace had made them public. The public criticism led to the European patent application, EP 1651777, being considerably watered down. The claims on swine were removed from the application. But in the meantime a dozen other pig-breeding patent applications by the US company have become known. Monsanto's EP 1673382 application is in addition partly about breeding cattle. [more details]

6. MetaMorphix trading with pig genes

MetaMorphix in 2002 bought the Celera genome company's section dealing with genome analyses on animals. Celera was originally founded by the US researcher, Craig Venter, to analyse the human genome using high-performance computers. MetaMorphix thus received data on the genomes of cattle, swine and fowl. Monsanto and MetaMorphix announced they were cooperating in 2004. Monsanto will by a licensing agreement have exclusive access to the company's data, which include some 600,000 genetic sequences for pigs. Metamorphix has entered into similar cooperative agreements with the US agricultural multinational, Cargill, in the cattle-breeding sphere, and with the Wilmar company in the sphere of breeding fowl. Metamorphix has also registered patents itself.

Some examples are:

WO 0043781: growth factors and hence manipulated farm animals

WO 2005052133: cattle genes for horn formation, analytic procedures for giraffes, cattle, sheep, buffalo and deer

US 2003065137: genes to increase weight, muscle mass and milk yield in farm animals

WO 9956771: inoculation against formation of sex hormones (partly to increase meat yields).

WO 9950406: egg cells manipulated with growth genes


Read more about Farm animals and corporate patent strategies 


Disclaimer: The documents presented here for download are copies of those from the European Patent Office (EPO) and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Legally binding are only the originals available from the organizations themselves.


WO...  numbers are world patent applications, at WIPO

EP... numbers are European Patents 

EP...A. numbers are European patent applications 

EP....B1 numbers are European Patents as granted

EP....B2 numbers are patents as granted after the closure of a dispute

Within the juridical structure of the EPO:

Opposition is the First Instance

Appeal is the Second Instance

Enlarged Board of Appeal is the highest court within the EPO, which has the final say.