In what two consumer groups today praised as a victory for open scientific inquiry, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has rejected a controversial patent on human embryonic stem cells held by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF).

“This is a major victory for unfettered scientific research that could lead to cures for some of the most debilitating diseases,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Stem Cell Project Director. The nonprofit, nonpartisan Consumer Watchdog had joined with the Public Patent Foundation in challenging the validity of WARF’s stem cell patent claims.

The USPTO’s Board of Appeals and Interferences agreed with the groups that the creation of human embryonic stem cell lines was obvious in the light of work that had been done in other species. In order to obtain a patent, work must be both new and non-obvious. Word of the the USPTO board’s April 28 decision was received over the weekend.

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