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EU Patent Office Revokes USA "Biopiracy" Patent on Fungicide Derived from Neem Tree Seeds

Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, New Delhi, India
The Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)

P R E S S R E L E A S E

Landmark Victory in World¹s First Case Against Biopiracy!!
European Patent Office Upholds Decision to Revoke Neem Patent

Munich, March 8, 2005. In a landmark decision today, the European Patent
Office upheld a decision to revoke in its entirety a patent on a
fungicidal product derived from seeds of the Neem, a tree indigenous to
the Indian subcontinent. The historic action resulted from a legal
challenge mounted ten years ago by three Opponents: the renowned Indian
environmentalist Vandana Shiva, Magda Aelvoet, then MEP and President of
the Greens in the European Parliament, and the International Federation
of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Their joint Legal Opposition
claimed that the fungicidal properties of the Neem tree had been public
knowledge in India for many centuries and that this patent exemplified
how international law was being misused to transfer biological wealth
from the South into the hands of a few corporations, scientists, and
countries of the North. Today the EPO¹s Technical Board of Appeals
dismissed an Appeal by the would-be proprietors America and the company Thermo Trilogy its Opposition Division five years ago to revoke the Neem patent in its
entirety, thus bringing to a close this ten-year battle in the world¹s
first legal challenge to a biopiracy patent.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, who travelled from India to be present at today¹s
hearing, commented, ³What a lovely celebration for the women of India
that this long-awaited decision falls on March 8th, International
Women¹s Day. Denying the patent means upholding the value of traditional
knowledge for millions of women not only in India, but throughout the
South. The FREE TREE WILL STAY FREE. This victory is the result of
extremely long solidarity. It is a victory of committed citizens over
commercial interests and big powers.²

Magda Aelvoet, Belgian Minister of State and former Health and
Environment Minister, was President of the Green Group in the European
Parliament when the
original Opposition was submitted. Just after the ruling, she commented,
"Our victory against biopiracy is threefold. First, it is a victory for
traditional knowledge and practices. This is the first time anybody has
been able to have a patent rejected on these grounds. Second, it is a
victory for solidarity: With the people of developing countries definitively earned the sovereign rights to their natural resources and with our colleagues in the NGOs, who fought with us against this
patent for the last ten years. And third, coming as it does on
International Women's Day, this is also a victory for women. The three
people who successfully argued this case against the might of the U.S.
administration and its corporate allies, were women: Vandana Shiva,
Linda Bullard and myself. It can also inspire and help people from
developing countries who suffer the same kind of theft but did not think
it was possible to combat it."

Linda Bullard, former President of the International Federation of
Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), stated, ³We are deeply gratified
that through our case the EPO has recognized the intellectual
achievements of the South. We were able to establish that traditional
knowledge systems can be a means of establishing ³prior art² and thus
used to destroy the claims of ³novelty² and ³inventiveness² in these
biopiracy patents. This now becomes case law, but the historic precedent
must be further developed and transposed into overall international
legal frameworks so that this type of theft is no longer possible.²

Although two days had been set aside to examine the Appeal, the case was
so clear that the Technical Board of Appeals needed only two hours to
reach a decision to dismiss the Appeal.

The Opponents were legally represented throughout the ten year battle by
Prof. Dr. Fritz Dolder, Professor Intellectual Property with the Faculty
of Law at the University of Basel, in Switzerland.* Dr. Dolder explained
that a reformulated claim submitted by the patent holders as part of
their Appeal was rejected on formal grounds. Subsequently, the main body
of the patent was tested with regard to novelty, disclosure, and
inventive stepS³and revoked irrevocably! This is the first time that the
EPO has legally concluded a biopiracy case.²


For further information, contact:

Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology: +
91/11-26561868, -26968077, 26535422; E-mail: vshiva@vsnl.com; Web Site
www.navdanya.org

The Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament: +32 2
284-1692;
E-mail msomville@europarl.eu.int; Web Site www.greens-efa.org

IFOAM: +49 228 926-5016; E-mail n.sorensen@ifoam.org; Web Site www.ifoam.org

*The lawyer for the Opponents, Dr. Fritz Dolder, is also available for
questions at fritz.dolder@unibas.ch

``````````````````````IFOAM's mission is ´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´´
leading, uniting and assisting the organic movement
in its full diversity. Our goal is the world wide adoption of
ecologically, socially and economically sound systems
that are based on the principles of Organic Agriculture.

__________________Uniting the Organic World__________________

Neil Sorensen IFOAM Head Office
Publications & Communications Manager Charles-de-Gaulle-Str. 5
Tel.: +49-228-92650-16 53113 Bonn
Fax: +49-228-92650-99 Germany
Email: n.sorensen@ifoam.org Web: www.ifoam.org
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