Intellectual property rights are increasingly seen as critical to the survival and growth of new and emerging technologies, such as stem cell research. Breakthrough technologies are swiftly patented (i.e. WARF and Yamanaka) but not without ample obstacles. Too early in the research development and patents issued often overreach broadly and wreak havoc on any future scientific developments. In fact, the establishment and the use of human pluripotent stem cells have proven complicated and problematic. Old broad patents claiming methods that cannot not replicate are, preventing development of newer, simpler and more effective technologies. On the other hand, the European patenting situation is deemed unfair against European scientists who cannot patent their human embryonic stem cell developed methods or cells, whereas others in different countries can perfectly do so. Nonetheless, the human pluripotent stem cell area is rapidly expanding and this is increasingly reflected in the global patent landscape. This review briefly discusses the present pluripotent stem cell environment using examples of worldwide patents with an emphasis on the United States, European Union and Sweden. It continues with the latest legal challenges in the United States and Europe and follows up with remarks on the current and future developments in this area.