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Dignity, Plurality and Patentability: The Unfinished Story of Brustle v Greenpeace

The patenting of living materials has been the subject of extensive controversy, and Brüstle v
Greenpeace represents yet another skirmish over the patentability of inventions reliant on
human embryos. This article examines the Court of Justice’s decision in Brüstle from the legal
and scientific/commercial angles, which are the two fields where it is proving to be most
disruptive. We examine its legal and theoretical implications and shortcomings, focusing on
the European law with which it failed to engage, and then its claimed, actual, and possible
scientific and commercial consequences. We conclude that this important case, while already
having obvious research funding consequences, will have more subtle commercial
implications and potentially far-reaching legal consequences, as its questionable definition of
the human embryo spills over into other fields.