ANY country, you might think, would relish being able to call itself the world’s leader in scientific research. America and Europe, however, seem to be in a bizarre parallel contest: which can make its scientists' lives more difficult by imposing the most muddled rules. This week the European Union edged ahead. On October 18th the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the highest court which opines on EU-wide matters, ruled that methods to derive embryonic stem cells could not be patented. The ruling sets Europe apart from the rest of the world—even America, long averse to stem-cell research, has no such qualms.