186,805 of 250,000 signatures

To the European Patent Office and to the Members of the European Patent Organisation


Carlsberg and Heineken did not invent beer brewing - it's been around for thousands of years. Regular barley belongs to all farmers and cannot be owned for the profit of companies, such as Carlsberg or Heineken. We urge you not to grant patents on regular bred plants and technology which is knowledge that’s been around for thousands of years!

Why is this important?

Barley, brewing and beer are all old and well known traditions, which anybody can use. Nevertheless the European Patent Office (EPO) has granted patents to Heineken and Carlsberg for regularly bred barley. With the patent these transnational corporations own the barley from the seed to the pint of beer. Not only is it outrageous these greedy corporations want to own a tradition that has been around for thousands of years, but in granting the patent, the EPO is in breach of EU law. Not only, for every patent they approve, they get paid.

We have a good chance to stop the patent on barley and to stop such patents from ever being granted. The EU already gave in to people’s pressure last year when more than 570.000 Europeans signed our petition, and declared that patents cannot be granted for plants and animals, unless they’re genetically modified. It’s now up to the member states of the European Patent Organisation to order their Office to act in accordance with the law. [1]

Together with over 30 environmental organisations [2], we raise our voices in protest and file a legal objection against patents on barley held by Carlsberg and Heineken. We will claim barley back - and take this chance to urge Member States to stop the EPO from breaching EU law.

In recent years the European Patent Office has continued to grant patents covering food plants, such as tomatoes, broccoli, melons and, most recently, barley. The scope of such patents is huge: in this case, it covers the barley, the brewing process and the beer itself. In addition, the patent covers all barley plants with the same traits, independently of how they were bred. This means that brewing companies would profit three times over – from selling the barley seeds to farmers, from buying the harvested barley from them, and from selling the beer to consumers. They have the control the entire way -- from the field to the pub. At the same time, the patent gives them the right to prevent other breeders from breeding better barley and allows them to extend their market dominance – to the detriment of farmers, breeders, other breweries and consumers.

The patents granted to Carlsberg and Heineken show just how industry and the EPO are able to exploit grey areas in patent law to avoid the existing prohibitions and benefit from it. [3] The EPO has a yearly income of one billion Euro from fees and earns with each patent granted [4] and the companies cement their dominance on the market.

With our objections we will struggle directly against two multinational breweries in one single case. The EPO is required to answer our legal objections with a detailed reasoning for their decision.

Our petition will also demand that governments in Europe order the EPO to comply with current regulation.

Update, 14.03.18:

We have filed a formal complaint against the patent. The European Patent Office has responded to inform us that the appeal procedure will commence in the autumn of 2018, which is the end of the prescribed one-year response period for a complaint.

Unfortunately, the European Patent Office is still in breach of the prohibition to grant patents on plants. Other Patents have also been granted in recent months. [5]

In coorperation with


[1] EU plus Albania, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Serbia, San Marino, Turkey. http://www.epo.org/about-us/organisation/member-states.html

[2]Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL), Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Umweltbeauftragten der Gliedkirchen der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (AGU), Arche Noah, Bioland, Bündnis gentechnikfreie Landwirtschaft, Bund Naturschutz Bayern (BN), Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND), Bundesverband Naturkost Naturwaren (BNN), Campact, Die freien Bäcker, Evangelischer Dienst auf dem Land in der EKD (EDL), Erzeugergemeinschaft für ökologische Braurohstoffe (EZÖB), Erzeugergemeinschaft Bördeland und Diemetal, FIAN, GAIA Portugal, Gäa e.V.- Vereinigung ökologischer Landbau, Gen-ethisches Netzwerk (GeN), IG Nachbau, Katholische Landvolkbewegung (KLB), Kein Patent auf Leben!, No patents on seeds!, NOAH – Friends of the Earth Denmark, Plataforma transgenicos for a Portugal, ProSpecie Rara Schweiz, Sambucus, Save our seeds!, Slow Food Deutschland, Swissaid, Umweltinstitut München, Verband Katholisches Landvolk (VKL), Welthaus Diözese Graz-Seckau Österreich, WeMove.EU, Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft, Zivilcourage Rosenheim.

[3] The patents held by these brewing companies (EP2384110 and EP2373154) are not based on inventions, but only on random mutations in the genome of the barley. The so-called „invention“ is based on random mutations in the genome of the barley commonly used in conventional breeding. Another patent held by the companies claims the use of plants for any further breeding (EP2575433). The use of the barley is supposed to make the brewing process somewhat simpler and cheaper as well as ensuring that the beer keeps for longer. http://www.no-patents-on-beer.org/en/background/patents-beer

[4] https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Europ%C3%A4ische_Patentorganisation#cite_note-7

[5] https://www.no-patents-on-seeds.org/index.php/en/node/440

Please can you chip in?

Carlsberg and Heineken are pushing really hard to own and control the entire process of beer making – from the field to the pub. We got a hearing to stop this, but we need to double up the pressure before it happens! To fund our campaigning expenses we need your help. Can you chip in a few euros to fight greedy corporations back?

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