Sunday, November 05, 2006

More issues in the basmati rice wars

Basmati rice means the "queen of fragrance or the perfumed one." This type of rice has been grown in the foothills of the Himalayas for thousands of years. An American company, RiceTec, stirred controversy back in 1997 with certain patent and trademark efforts. The Hindu discusses recent issues in the basmati rice debate.

The most recent issue, sounding in trademark, seems to be one of standing as to "who" can register basmati as a geographical indicator:

During an examination process spanning more than two years, it was found "the Heritage Foundation is represented mostly by mill owners and exporters. This goes against the rule that the entity applying for a GI [geographical indication] should have growers/stakeholders as majority partners," an expert having knowledge of the development disclosed.

The Hindu also noted:

Following India's challenge, RiceTec surrendered four claims and withdrew another 11 out of the total 20 claims.

Subsequently, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office prohibited RiceTec from using the term `basmati' and restricted the scope of the patent to three specific rice strains developed by the U.S. company that are unrelated to the varieties grown in India.

Back in the year 2000, Anthony Browne wrote:

Basmati rice, sought-after for its fragrant taste, was developed by Indian farmers over hundreds of years, but the Texan company RiceTec obtained a patent for a cross-breed with American long-grain rice.

RiceTec was granted the patent on the basis of aroma, elongation of the grain on cooking and chalkiness. However, the Indian government last week filed 50,000 pages of scientific evidence to the US Patents and Trademarks Office, insisting that most high quality basmati varieties already possess these characteristics. The US Patent and Trademarks office accepted the petition and will re-examine its legitimacy.

The patent -- granted only in the US -- gives RiceTec control over basmati rice production in North America. Farmers have to pay a fee to grow the rice and are not allowed to plant the seeds to grow the following year's crops. [written June 25, 2000]


Post a Comment

<< Home