U.S. patent ruling just before Easter favors rabbits
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2008:
JENKINTOWN, Pa.– The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office just
before Easter 2008 rejected a patent claim by a Japanese-owned
company called Biochemical and Pharmacological Laboratories, Inc.
which had attempted to patent rabbits whose eyes had been
The claim was challenged by the American Anti-Vivisection
Society, the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation, and
the PatentWatch project of the International Center for Technology
AAVS previously won a similar challege to a patent when the
University of Texas tried to claim exclusive rights to produce
beagles who had been severely infected with a particular strain of
The U.S. Patent & Trademark office has issued more than 660
patents on animals since allowing Harvard University to patent a
genetically modified mouse in 1987, but when patents have been
challenged has tended to favor those in which the animal has been
changed by manipulating genetic codes, rather than those in which
the change was introduced by an external process.
Patent rulings are closely watched by advocates for amending
the legal status of animals, since patents define the bounds of what
may be considered “property.”
A setback in seeking to alter the property status of animals
came in January 2008, when the Austrian Supreme Court rejected an
appeal by the Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories,
seeking to have a chimpanzee named Matthew Hiasl Pan declared a legal
person. The original petition, by British teacher and Austrian
resident Paula Stibbe, was denied in April 2007.
“The animal rights group said it would take the case to the
European Court of Human Rights,” reported Associated Press.
“Matthew and another chimp named Rosi, were captured as
babies in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled to Austria for use in
pharmaceutical experiments,” Associated Press explained. “Customs
officers intercepted the shipment,” and turned the chimps over to a
now bankrupt sanctuary. Stibbe seeks to legally adopted Matthew to
ensure that he will not be sold outside Austria.
Using chimpanzees in experiments was banned in Austria in 2002.