In light of the decision made by the European Court in recognizing that human life begins from the moment of conception this week (Wednesday, 19 October 2011), the Intellectual Property of Office of PNG (IPOPNG) is elated to note the significant progress in this discussions and most probably the end to the long standing controversial question (from the legal point of view) of when exactly can one determine the beginning to the development of human life.

Does human life begin at conception or during a later stage when the fertilized egg settles in the uterus?

Many intellects all over the world have challenged this question from both the scientific and legal point of view but no consensus can be reached due to the simple fact that every opinion is influenced by an external but existing factor such as religion, commercial viability & gain, scientific (medical) discovery and most importantly human dignity.

In September 2008, an application was lodged with IPOPNG from a foreign inventor who requested for his invention titled; COMPOSITIONS COMPRISING HUMAN EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS AND THEIR DERIVATIVES, METHODS OF USE, AND METHODS OF PREPARATIONS to be allowed patent protection within PNG.

Considering the controversy surrounding this matter, IPOPNG despite its infancy as an IP Office, proceeded with background research and consultation on legal advice for a year before refusing the application in 2009 based on ethics as shown in the extract (below) of the refusal decision transmitted to the applicant.

The fact that the Constitution of the Papua New Guinea recognizes and upholds Christian values, we strongly oppose the destruction of human embryo for research purposes. We support that an embryo is a living person and should be treated with respect. The Constitution gives recognition to Christian values and principles upheld by the majority of believers of which the greater percentage being the Roman Catholic Church. The Constitution further recognizes and acknowledges the right to life. The basic right to life is a fundamental right to any person to live and develop to their fullest potential without any interference.

The killing of human embryo is contrary to public order and morality and is unconstitutional. Hence, your application does not meet the requirements of Section 12(2) of the Act and is therefore not patentable in Papua New Guinea .

Therefore, the decision by the European Court is welcomed by the IPOPNG as it adds value to the decision made earlier regarding the same matter at the national level.

While some may argue otherwise, it is essential to understand the impact of this invention whether socially, medically or commercially and to assess its relevance to the current status of medical research within PNG as compared to that in the developed nations. IPOPNG is therefore mindful to ensure informed decisions are made in the best interest of PNG without impeding development.