Case Law: Biotechnological Inventions Case

8 Colum. J. Eur. L. 509 (2002)

Dries Van Eeckhoutte. Research Fellow, Foundation for Scientific Research- Flanders, Institute for International Law, K.U.Leuven, Belgium.

Case C-377/98, Kingdom of the Netherlands v. European Parliament and Council of the European Union, 2001 E.C.R. 1-7079.

In the Biotechnological Inventions case, the question of the relationship between European Community law and international law was raised. In an application for annulment, the Netherlands argued inter alia that the Biotechnological Inventions Directive is incompatible with several international treaties, some of which are WTO treaties.

In answer to these claims, the European Court of Justice clarified some of its case law on the invocability of GATT and WTO treaties, on other international treaties, and on the use of rules of customary international law in reviewing the legality of a Community act. Because these clarifications brought about a partial reversal of prior case law, I will focus my discussion of the Biotechnological inventions case around these issues.

As a preliminary matter, I will sketch out the facts, background, and the procedure of the case.

In order to gain a thorough understanding of the Court’s judgement in the case at hand, I will also outline the Court’s prior case law on the invocability of international treaties and on the use of rules of customary international law to review the legality of Community acts.

Next, I will examine the Court’s decision in the matter in the Biotechnological inventions case and, finally, I will consider the implications of the Biotechnological inventions case on future decisions.