India has blocked attempts to patent at least 36 of its indigenous vegetables and spices, including the popular dry fruit 'pista' (pistachio) and the seasonal fruit 'kharbooza' (watermelon) in the United States and Europe, health ministry officials said today.
The European Patent Office (EPO) had decided to grant a patent to Data Medica Padova SPA, Italy, on February 2009 for use of pista (Pistacia vera) in an anti-cancer drug. Citing evidence based on eight Unani books published as early as 10th century and one Siddha book published in 1924, the Indian health ministry had, in July 2009, filed an application to block the patents. EPO, based on the evidence, set aside its earlier decision to grant patent in the same month.
Similarly, EPO decided to grant patent to Perdix Eurogroup SL Spain for use of the watery extract of kharbooza as an anti-vitilgo cream.
The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library team of India produced evidence based on a Unani book, 'Muheet Azam', published in 1899, and filed an application and the EPO set aside its decision to grant patent, the officials said.
Indian Lotus for curing heart disease, turmeric, onions, jeera and ginger as a slimming agent and Bengal gram for curing obesity are among 11 patents which were withdrawn by the applicants themselves.
The patents were stalled after India joined hands with the US and the UK to help prevent misappropriation of its traditional knowledge with the signing of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) Access Agreement in November 2009 on the sidelines of the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the US.