Friday, November 18, 2016

A Pint of Patents

Two patents granted to Carlsberg and Heineken in April, the EPO upheld inventors' claims that barley mutations provided new enzymes to develop "more distinctive," flavor-stable beers and also had less dimethyl sulfide (DMS)that can give beer an undesirable 'cooked sweet corn' taste. A third patent, which was granted in September, the brewers expect major energy savings during malting and kiln-drying by using barley varieties low in linoleic acid, allowing cooler temperatures during the so-called "wort" to remove stale flavors. Half of the brew-house energy usage occurred during these phases.

No Patents on Seeds, an alliance including Greenpeace, the Catholic charity Misereor, and globally networked small-scale farmers called on the Danish brewer to relinquish three patents.  In its open letter, the Munich-based No Patents on Seeds alliance said "there should be no patents on beer and brewing barley. The cultivation of plants and beer brewing stems from a centuries-old tradition." Critics said two of the patents originated from accidental mutations of genetic material in barley or Hordeum vulgare, a cereal grown worldwide.

The anti-patent alliance pointed to a European Commission reaffirmation of a 1998 EU directive that plants and animals resulting from "essentially biological" breeding could not be patented. This traditional form of breeding, resulting in a geneti­cally stable individual, with required characteristics only attained after much crossing and selection, was "not appropriate" for patent protection, wrote the Commission because scientific repeatability was illusive. The Commission's pronouncement was still not legally binding.

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