Neem Patent: (Azadirachta indica)

The people of India in a variety of ways have used neem, since time immemorial. Indians have shared the knowledge of the properties of the neem with the entire world. Pirating this knowledge, the USDA and an American MNC W.R. Grace in the early 90s sought a patent (No. 0426257 B) from the European Patent Office (EPO) on the “method for controlling on plants by the aid of hydrophobic extracted neem oil.” The patenting of the fungicidal properties of Neem was an example of biopiracy.

  • US patent office granted patent on a fungicidal product derived from seeds of the Neem.
  • India opposed the patent by claiming that the fungicidal properties of the Neem tree had been public knowledge in India for many centuries.
  • The oil from neem has been used traditionally by farmers to prevent fungus. It was neither a novel idea nor was it Inventive.
  • The Patent was finally revoked by the European Patent Office.
Patent on Neem

Haldi patent:

  • In December 1993, a patent was filed by the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Mississippi
  • Applicants received US patent 5,401,504 for the use of turmeric powder as a wound-healing agent by Indian Government objected to the patent.
  • The turmeric patent failed to satisfy the criteria of novelty in view of the cited turmeric’s qualities documented in ancient medical textbooks.

Basmati patent:

Basmati is a long-grained, aromatic variety of rice indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. In 1997 the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted a patent (No. 5663484) to a Texas based American company Rice Tec Inc for “Basmati rice line and grains”. The patent application was based on 20 very broad claims on having “invented” the said rice. Due to people’s movement against rice Tec in March 2001 the UPSTO has rejected all but three of the claims.

  • Rice Tec (US Co.) obtained a patent on a type of rice produced by crossing a strain of Indian basmati rice with an American variety.
  • The patent claimed rights in respect of basmati-like rice grown anywhere in the Western Hemisphere. It also claimed future rights on any new varieties produced by crossing the new variety with existing Asian varieties.
  • The farmers argued that an American rice producer should not be allowed to use the name ‘basmati’. Basmati rice is a valuable export crop earning India approximately US$800 million a year.
  • As a result of a worldwide citizen campaign against RiceTec Basmati patents, USPTO struck down large sections of the Basmati patent.
Basmati Rice Patent

Yoga Patent:

  • A US-based NRI, Bikram Choudhary’s applied to get copyright for his method of teaching yoga
  • He applied for the patent of yoga also
  • Yoga enthusiasts and gurus move is unjustified as yoga belongs to the entire human race.
  • USPTO has reportedly issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 trademarks on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks.
  • India has taken a strong view against the granting of copyrights and patents to Yoga postures by the USPTO and is preparing to oppose patents

Ayahuasca case:

  • In 1986, Ayahuasca, a vine native to the Amazon Rain Forest, was patented by Loren Miller, an American scientist and entrepreneur
  • The plant has been used by healers and religious leaders to treat sicknesses, contact spirits, foresee the future throughout the Amazon tribes for generations
  • The council for the tribe applied and obtained a rejection of the ayahuasca patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Colgate case:

  • Colgate was accused of stealing 1,000-year-old Indian toothpaste recipe
  • Colgate obtained a US patent for the tooth powder composition comprising rust-like red iron oxide, clove oil, camphor, black pepper and spearmint
  • Indian activists are accusing Colgate of ‘biopiracy’ for allegedly stealing and patenting a 1,000-year-old folk recipe for toothpaste.
  • All the ingredients date back to antiquity. They have been used by the common Indian man for thousands of years.
  • Efforts are going on from India for building 34 million webpages document for substantiating that the ingredients were known in the art.

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