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Neem Patent Revoked

India has won a major battle against biopiracy yesterday when the opposition division of European Patent Office completely revoked the patent granted to the United States department of agriculture and W R Grace for a fungicide derived from the seeds of the neem tree.

Following an extensive testimony by an Indian expert, Abhay Phadke, the panel said there was no inventive step involved, as claimed, in a fungicide derived from the neem tree.

Another witness, Dr U B Singh, also provided affidavits confirming that the art of deriving fungicide from neem seeds had been practised in India from ancient times.

The case began five years ago when Vandana Shiva's Research Foundation, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), and Magda Aelvoet filed a case against the patent. Aelvolet, a former Green member of the European Parliament, is now environment minister of Belgium.

Commenting on the verdict, Shiva said, "How could the United States or W R Grace say that they invented something which has been in public use for the centuries and on which modern scientific research has been carried out in the country for decades."

The neem story

The dispute:

Five years ago, Vandana Shiva's Research Foundation and Magda Aelvoet filed a plea against a patent granted to the US agriculture department and W R Grace for a fungicide derived from the need tree

The argument:

Indian experts testified that there was no invention involved in deriving the fungicide as it had always been in use in India

The verdict:

EPO revoked the patent, saying there was no inventive step involved, as claimed

The implications:

The revocation will influence other cases of biopiracy, TRIPs review, and amendments in India's patents law

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First Published: Fri, May 12 2000. 00:00 IST