Bangladesh authority sitting on draft GI Act
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SATURDAY, 09 MARCH 2013
AUTHOR / SOURCE: M S SIDDIQUI
There are two burning issues of GI to understand the Geographical Indication. RiceTec, a Texas-based US company, in 1997, patented some types of rice they developed as American basmati.
RiceTec Inc, had been trying to enter the international Basmati market with brands like Kasmati and Texmati. Ultimately, the company claimed to have developed a new strain of aromatic rice by interbreeding basmati with another variety. They sought to call the allegedly new variety as Texmati or American Basmati. RiceTec Inc, was issued the Patent number 5663484 on Basmati rice lines and grains on September 2, 1997. RiceTec has got a patent for three things: growing rice plants with certain characteristics identical to Basmati, the grain produced by such plants, and the method of selecting rice based on a starch index (SI) test devised by RiceTec, Inc.
The patenting of Basmati by RiceTec Inc. is perceived as not only intellectual property and cultural theft, but it also directly threatens farm communities in Southeast Asia. The main aim for obtaining the patent by RiceTec Inc. is to fool the consumers in believing there is no difference between spurious Basmati and real Basmati. Moreover, the theft involved in the Basmati patent is, therefore, threefold: a theft of collective intellectual and biodiversity heritage on farmers of South Asia, a theft from traders in the SE region and exporters whose markets are being stolen by RiceTec Inc., and finally a deception of consumers since RiceTec is using a stolen name Basmati for rice which are derived from Indian rice but not grown in India, and hence are not the same quality. This was objected to by two Indian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) Centre for Food Safety, an international NGO that campaigns against biopiracy, and the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, an Indian environmental NGO who filed legal petitions in the United States. The Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research also objected to it. They sought trade protection for basmati rice of the South Asian subcontinent and jasmine rice of Thailand. They have demanded amendment of U.S. rice standards to specify that the term “basmati” can be used only for rice grown in India and Pakistan, and jasmine for the Thai rice. The patent was challenged on the fact that the plant varieties and grains already exist as a staple in India. 75 percent of U.S. rice imports are from Thailand and that the remainder is from India and Pakistan and both varieties are rice that cannot be grown in the United States. The legal theory is that the patent is not novel and for an invention that is obvious, being based on rice that is already being imported in the United States, therefore it should not have been granted in the first place. As a result of the re-examination application filed by the Indian government, RiceTec agreed to withdraw several of the claims. In January 29, 2002, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a Reexamination Certificate canceling claims 1-7, 10, and 14-20 (the broad claims covering the rice plant) out of 24 claims and entered amendments to claims 12- 13 on the definition of chalkiness of the rice grains.
The United Kingdom, did not accept request of RiceTec to allow bashmoti as Texmati rice, since British law protects the use of the term basmati to refer to rice coming from India and Pakistan. RiceTec also uses Texmati in its U.S. sales, but does use the term basmati in its...
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