Our older readers will remember Aysha having blogged about the Pelargonium patent case
in 2008. Almost two years later, in what is being
hailed as a victory against bio-piracy, the patent granted to German based Schwabe Pharmaceuticals for the anti-bronchitis drug after a ruling by the European Patent Office has been withdrawn on the grounds that the same did not amount to a “discovery” since the uses of the plant were known sufficiently in advance (having been used extensively by communities in Lesotho and the Easter Cape of South Africa, amongst other regions). Opposed by NGOs and other pharmaceutical manufacturers, Schwabe has announced its intention to appeal against this decision.
This case typically pits David v. Goliath where pharma companies have been accused of being ruthless in the manner they exploit traditional knowledge of communities that have used their home remedies and resources for centuries without any intention of marketing the same.
The undertones of rhetoric however, also highlight a more important question of the effectiveness of the Convention on the Protection of Biodiversity and other national legislations (that we have blogged about here), and the balance that needs to be found between the use of traditional knowledge and the patenting of the same by companies.