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 user 2005-03-18 at 10:51:00 am Views: 120
  • #10923
    India wins landmark patent battle
    India has won a 10-year-long battle at the European Patent
    Office (EPO) against a patent granted on an anti-fungal product, derived from

    EPO initially granted the patent to the US Department of Agriculture and
    multinational WR Grace in 1995.

    But the Indian government successfully argued that the medicinal neem tree is
    part of traditional Indian knowledge.

    The winning challenge comes after years of campaigning and legal efforts
    against so-called “bio-piracy”.

    Leading the campaign in the neem case was the EU Parliament’s Green Party,
    India-based Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) and
    the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

    This historic precedent must be further developed
    “Denying the patent means upholding the value of ‘traditional’ for
    millions of [people] not only in India but throughout the South. The free tree
    will stay free,” said RFSTE director, Dr Vandana Shiva.

    “This victory is the result of extremely long solidarity. It is a victory of
    committed citizens over commercial interests and big powers.”

    Ancient knowledge

    A challenge was first mounted against the patent when it was granted in 1995.
    In 2000, it was victorious, but the US multinational mounted an appeal. On
    Tuesday this week, that appeal was lost.

    The backbone of RFSTE’s challenge was that the fungicide qualities of the
    neem tree and its use had been known in India for over 2,000 years.

    The neem derivatives have also been used traditionally to make insect
    repellents, soaps, cosmetics, tooth cleaners and contraceptives.

    In 1995, WR Grace patented neem-based bio pesticides, including Neemix, for
    use on food crops. Neemix suppresses insect feeding behaviour and growth in more
    than 200 species of insects.

    But the EPO agreed that the process for which the patent had been granted had
    actually been in use in India for many years.

    Under normal circumstances, a patent application should always be rejected if
    there is prior existing knowledge about the product.

    But in the United States, “prior existing knowledge” is only recognised if it
    is published in a journal – not if it has been passed down through generations
    of oral and folk traditions.

    “We are deeply gratified that through our case the EPO has recognised the
    intellectual achievements of the South,” said Linda Bullard, former president of

    “We were able to establish that traditional knowledge systems can be a means
    of establishing ‘prior art’ and thus used to destroy claims of novelty and

    “This historic precedent must be further developed and transposed into
    overall international frameworks so that this type of theft is no longer