Sunday, June 21, 2015

Biopiracy in patents

Bio-piracy as a concept.

Bio piracy is the practice by which ownership of biological products and processes are controlled by the process of patenting. It is essentially viewed as the monopolization of traditional knowledge and biological resources. Bio piracy is also regarded as “double theft” since it not only permits theft of creativity but also grants exclusive rights on the stolen knowledge. India was the first country to raise this vital concern of protection and preservation of traditional knowledge at the World Intellectual Property Rights Organization (WIPO).

Turmeric Case

In the year 1995 patent was granted to University of Mississippi Medical Centre U.S. Patent (5,401,504) on use of Turmeric in Wound Healing. This was an immense blow to Indian’s rich traditional and indigenous knowledge since turmeric has been in use since times immemorial as an anti-parasitic agent, blood purifier, treating common cold apart from being used as an essential ingredient in Indian cuisine. In 1996, The Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), India, New Delhi requested the US Patent and Trademarks Office (USPTO) to revoke the patent on the grounds of existing of prior art. The documentary evidence of traditional knowledge proved the extensive use of turmeric in India. The patent was revoked in 1997, after establishing that there was no novelty.

Neem Case

When the European Patent Office revoked the patent granted to Neem, it was considered to be an advance development in the global fight against bio piracy. The EPO reversed its original decision of granting a patent jointly to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US chemical major W R Grace.

Hence, in the wake of the numerous patent applications filed as in case of turmeric, basmati, neem etc. which are endangering India’s traditional knowledge, it is imperative that India takes a strong stance and does not succumb to the pressures created by the West.