27 January 2010

Major Victory Against Neo-colonial Patents

Patents are bad enough, because they enclose knowledge. But when they steal that knowledge from the lore of traditional medicine, it's a double crime - adding a dash of neo-colonialism to the mix. So here's some good news on that front:

The Opposition Division of the European Patent Office (EPO) has today revoked a patent granted to Dr. Willmar Schwabe (Schwabe) in its entirety. The patent was opposed by the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) from South Africa acting on behalf of a rural community in Alice, in the Eastern Cape, in collaboration with the Swiss anti-biopiracy watchdog, the Berne Declaration.

The patent was in respect of a method for producing extracts of Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium reniforme to make Schwabe’s blockbuster cough and colds syrup, Umckaloabo. It was revoked because the Opposition Division found that the patent did not satisfy the requirements of the European Patent Convention dealing with inventiveness.

What's remarkable here is that not only was the patent revoked, but that it was an African organsiation, acting on behalf of a rural community, that achieved it. Let's hope it's the first of many. (Via @GMWatch.)

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