Scientific progress in the life sciences is dependent on the governance of tensions between the economic potential of the innovation and the cultural response from society. Ownership of the scientific innovation through patenting is a necessary part of the realization of its economic value yet, in the case of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) science, ownership of the human body and human life may offend fundamental cultural values. In the case of transnational patenting governance by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Union (EU), cross-national cultural conflict in the field of hESC science has produced a political demand for a form of governance that can incorporate ethical as well as economic judgements in its decision making. This paper explores how bioethics has responded to this opportunity to establish itself as a form of expert authority for the negotiation and resolution of the cultural conflict. In so doing, it shows how the political struggle that has accompanied this bid for new governance territory has been influenced both by the political tensions between the EPO and EU systems of patenting governance and the resistance of competing experts in law and science to a bioethical presence.