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Human embryonic stem cells and patent law in the EU and China: Convergence in standards through divergence in institutions

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Ben FarrandORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


While socio-cultural and historical differences in the EU Member States and China have resulted in two distinct regimes for human embryonic stem cell research, with the EU considered somewhat conservative and China significantly liberal in approach, the laws governing patenting of innovations derived from stem cell research in both legal regimes appear to be remarkably similar. How is it that two divergent systems have nevertheless converged on a restrictive approach to patenting in this field of research? This article will demonstrate the way in which different institutional pressures and objectives have resulted in similar practices: while deliberative decision-making within the context of representative liberal democracy resulted in the EU placing morality-based limitations on economically driven hESC patenting, China’s elite-driven processes within the context of "authoritarian deliberation" instead adopted morality-based limitations both as an indicator of meeting standards of best practice as a means of encouraging research and investment, and as the result of institutional learning. Therefore, despite different institutional designs and policy-making approaches, the EU and China have converged on remarkably similar hESC patent regimes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Farrand B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Intellectual Property Quarterly

Year: 2016

Volume: 2016

Issue: 3

Pages: 260-277

Print publication date: 01/06/2016

Online publication date: 01/06/2016

Acceptance date: 01/03/2016

Date deposited: 06/04/2019

ISSN (print): 1364-906X

Publisher: Sweet & Maxwell Ltd