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BWR Appears on Al Jazeera to Discuss IVF Patent Controversy

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BWR partner Jerry Bridge-Butler appeared on global news network Al Jazeera last week to discuss a controversial new IVF patent.

Introduced as a “patent specialist from London” Jerry was asked to comment on a patent recently granted in Europe to Stanford University which relates to a method of choosing embryos for use in IVF.

Jerry only had an hour’s notice before the interview was conducted, and his answers were broadcast to over 100 countries, and could be seen in 220 million households worldwide.

Al Jazeera is broadcast throughout most of the day from a large studio in Doha, Qatar, but it also has studios in Knightsbridge in London, from where Jerry was interviewed, as a representative of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA).

Controversy erupted over the Stanford patent because a group of leading clinicians has opposed it on moral grounds, claiming its subject matter relates to a natural process which should not be the exclusive preserve of a single party.

Jerry was asked by presenter Adrian Finighan to explain what exactly the patent covered, and why it has caused consternation from a number of clinicians. The patent, which was granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) earlier this year, concerns a method of choosing embryos according to the manner in which they develop. The European Patent Convention, which establishes the rules for the EPO states that methods of treatment and diagnosis of the human body are not patentable. However, this broad exclusion does not apply to the patented method because an embryo is not a human body, nor is it inside a human body when the method is carried out.

Mr Finighan asked if the law should be updated to reflect the most recent advances in medical technology. As a representative of CIPA Jerry could not state a preference, and instead explained that such an issue would be one for the EPO and national politicians to decide upon.

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