Patenting Bioprinting Technologies in the US and Europe – The Fifth Element in the Third Dimension

By Timo Minssen

I am happy to announce the publication of our new working paper on  “Patenting Bioprinting Technologies in the US and Europe – The 5th element in the 3rd dimension.” The paper, which has  been co-authored by Marc Mimler, starts out by describing the state of the art and by examining what sorts of bioprinting inventions are currently being patented. Based on our findings we then discuss what types of future innovations we can expect from the technological development and how far these would and/or should be protectable under European and US patent laws.

The paper is forthcoming in: RM Ballardini, M Norrgård & J Partanen (red), 3D printing, Intellectual Property and Innovation – Insights from Law and Technology. Wolters Kluwer, but the working paper is already available on SSRN.


The enormous opportunities and the broader implications of bioprinting raise a wide variety of crucial legal issues. These may range from the regulation of the science and its’ societal effects to questions regarding the commercialization of the technology. Regarding commercialization aspects, one issue that must be addressed concerns the question of what types of products and uses should be regarded as protectable subject matter under the relevant intellectual property right (IPR) frameworks. Considering that the availability IPRs might have a great impact on where the greatest investments and scientific efforts in this technology will made, this is an utterly important question. In addition to trade secrets, copyrights, trademarks and other IPR-related rights, patents will certainly play a major role in that respect and will be at the focus of this paper.

In this paper, we examine what sorts of bioprinting- inventions are being patented or would be- protectable under European and US patent laws. Rather than focusing on the highly relevant questions that 3D printing poses for patent infringement doctrines and research exemptions, this paper concentrates on the question of patentable subject matter and patentability. To this end, we start out by (1) briefly describing the relevant state of the art in bioprinting. This allows us to better describe and understand the current bioprinting patent landscape (2), and to examine in how far any future inventions stemming from such technology would meet the most basic U.S. and European patent requirements (3). A related question is of course, if some bioprinting technologies should be categorically excluded from patentability, i.e. even when meeting the most basic patent criteria. We address this specific issue by discussing patent- limitations and morality exclusions from patent law (4), which will allow us to complete the paper with some concluding remarks (5).

Suggested Citation

Minssen, T & Mimler, M 2017, “Patenting Bioprinting Technologies in the US and Europe– The 5th element in the 3rd dimension”, Working Paper, forthcoming in: RM Ballardini, M Norrgård & J Partanen (red), 3D printing, Intellectual Property and Innovation – Insights from Law and Technology. Wolters Kluwer. Available at SSRN:… .


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About Timo Minssen

Timo Minssen is Professor of Biotechnology Law specializing in legal aspects of biomedical innovation at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Centre for Information & Innovation Law (CIIR), Denmark. Before joining UCPH, Timo graduated from law school in Göttingen (Germany) in 2001 and was trained in the German court system from 2002-2003. He also passed the Swedish “juris licentiate” (LL.Lic.) and “juris doctor” exams (LL.D.) and holds two IP- and Biotech- related masters degrees from the Universities of Uppsala and Lund (Sweden). In addition he worked for a Life Science company and for various law firms in Sweden and Germany. From 2007-2009 Timo was a stipendiary at the Max Planck Institute for Intellectual Property and Competition Law in Munich. He was also responsible for a course in comparative patent law at the Chicago-Kent College of Law (USA) and worked for the European Patent Office. At Lund University he is engaged as a teacher at the Faculty of Law and in interdisciplinary epigenetics research at the Pufendorf Institute for Advanced Studies. At UCPH he is co-leading CIIR’s Copenhagen Biotech & Pharma Forum and teaches international classes for both students and pharma professionals in EU-, Competition-, and Pharmaceutical Law and IPR. Timo is a frequent speaker on a variety of topics and has published extensively in comparative US and European patent law, EU- and Competition Law. In 2013-14, he was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Law School's Petrie-Flom Center and at the University of Oxford. In 2016 he will be Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge.