Thursday, March 26, 2009

Excellent news

In the first step by a developing country to stop multinational companies patenting traditional remedies from local plants and animals, the Indian government has effectively licensed 200,000 local treatments as "public property" free for anyone to use but no one to sell as a "brand".

The move comes after scientists in Delhi noticed an alarming trend – the "bio-prospecting" of natural remedies by companies abroad.

After trawling through the records of the global trademark offices, officials found 5,000 patents had been issued — at a cost of at least $150m (£104m) — for "medical plants and traditional systems".

More than 2,000 of these belong to the Indian systems of medicine

We began to ask why multinational companies were spending millions of dollars to patent treatments that so many lobbies in Europe deny work at all," said Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, who heads the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which lists in encyclopaedic detail the 200,000 treatments.

The database, which took 200 researchers eight years to compile by meticulously translating ancient Indian texts, will now be used by the European Patent Office to check against "bio-prospectors".

Gupta points out that in Brussels alone there had been 285 patents for medicinal plants whose uses had long been known in the three principal Indian systems: ayurveda, India's traditional medical treatment; unani, a system believed to have come to India via ancient Greece; and siddha, one of India's oldest health therapies, from the south.

Researchers found that in Europe one company had patented an Indian creeping plant known as Brahmi — Bacopa monnieri — for a memory enhancer.

Another patent was awarded for aloe vera for its use as a mouth ulcer treatment.

We have shown the authorities that ayurveda, unani and siddha medicinal uses were known in India.

We would like the patents therefore lifted, said Gupta.

In the past India has had to go to court to get patents revoked.

Officials say that to lift patents from medicines created from turmeric and neem, an Indian tree, it spent more than $5m.

In the case of the neem patent, the legal battle took almost 10 years.

We won because we proved these were part of traditional Indian knowledge.

There was no innovation and therefore no patent should be granted, said Gupta.

The Guardian

As an example the plant shown at the top is Aloe chinensis or Indian Medicine plant, and is the common plant that most in the West know aas Aloe vera

They are native to India and Vietnam and have been used for thousands of years in various treatments

Today they feature in various Western guises being claimed to help various ailments with usually scant or no reference to their origin or Indian heritage


Alexandra said...

I just love your blog, as one gets to know really interesting things! The other day I read in the German Focus, a scientific journal, that India will start protecting it's 2000 year old system of Yoga, because there is so much humbug done with it in the West. And, same thing, India wants to protect it's heritage, it said!! Great, isn't it!!!!

Gabriele said...

Hurray!!!!Great going for India.