Knowledge for Development

Neem patent revoked by European Patent Office

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Date: 28/12/2004

Introduction:

Chakravarthi Raghavan, 11 May 2000. The European Patent Office (EPO) has acted to revoke a patent granted earlier to a fungicide derived from the Indian medicinal tree, Neem. The challengers had demanded the invalidation of the patent on the ground that the fungicide qualities of the neem and its use have been known in India for over 2000 years, and for use to make insect repellents, soaps, cosmetics and contraceptives. In revoking the patent, the EPO agreed that the patent amounted to bio-piracy and that the process for which the patent had been granted had actually been in use in India from time immemorial. The successful challenge has implications for other cases of bio-piracy as well as for amendments to the Indian patent law (to comply with the WTO). An earlier Indian government challenge in the US led to the revocation of a patent on another Indian plant, turmeric, whose medicinal qualities have been known for centuries.

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