Updated: Aug 30, 2021
India: America, why do you sense yourself as an exceptionally unique nation?
I mean! Not every treasured asset in the world belongs to you.
America: Well! My friend. Being smart is not misconduct. I acknowledge you are rich in resources, heritage, and culture, but your lack of information always drags you down. Don't you agree?
Sanjay Jendayi is famously quoted saying
“Guard your intellect like the most valuable property you own”.
Imagine, you are relaxing in your home, sipping your favorite ginger lemon tea and suddenly somebody knocks at your door with a claim that your house belongs to him! How terrible and outrageous you will feel..but don't worry that won't happen in the realm of reality because you'll be shielded by the protection of property rights and one such right is IPR.
IPR- Intellectual property right
It is the body of law developed to protect the creative ideas of individuals, was enacted in 1970.
Unfortunately! There are not many positive examples of bioprospecting.
Due to India's lack of interest and knowledge towards biopiracy, India has lost many of its cultural assets like neem, Darjeeling tea, turmeric resulting to face heavy economic loss.
To know more about it let's have a look into India's history of being conned by cagey colonizers who exploited our aboriginal fortune for their commercial profit.
One such incident was encountered by India in 1997 when US-based multinational company RICETEC claimed its economic rights on India's indigenous Basmati Rice by putting its patent on it under the name "basmati rice liner and grains", giving RICETEC exclusive rights of any basmati hybrid grown anywhere in the western hemisphere.
They performed crossbreeding of India's native basmati with US indigenous long rice varieties and played the c game smartly.
The practical impact of the RICETEC patent was asymmetric and non-judicial in the perspective of Indian basmati rice suppliers seeking to export to foreign countries.
India was like- wait a minute!.
Who are you to steal my counties right? Do you think of me as a fool?
And from here the fight over Basmati rice begun between the two countries.
One was fighting for commercial profit, while another was for countries' identity. And here India found support from an unlikely ally Pakistan!
A Spree of attempts to Obtain GI TAG
India and Pakistan share a vast land of Indo-Gangetic plain, which produces a gargantuan amount of basmati rice, and feeds a combined population of more than a billion! Now the question here arises is, was there a way to gain back the rights? And the answer is affirmative, indeed RICETEC does have the patent of the basmati but India applied for the life-buoy GI TAG.
Think of it as a label that offers protection under European geographical indication laws and represents the geographical origin of the product. India applied for obtaining GI TAG, the application encompasses all geographical traits and factors, it even mentioned about Heer-ranjha, a Punjabi poem which first mentioned basmati rice and India did exclude to mention Pakistan and its geographical peculiarities. It enraged Pakistan and Pakistan did plan to file its application but it wasn't a cake for Pakistan either, it is mandatory to have local GI laws before obtaining the same globally, and here India got the edge, as it passed its GI laws back in 1999, still Pakistan managed to pass it's GI laws and both countries are disputing for the GI TAG. The dispute is closing to an end as both countries are planning to file a joint application for the tag.
The dispute over basmati rice was an excellent example of biopiracy though it seemed like a far cry for the India-Pak partnership to gain back possession of the rights, eventually, the dispute is closing to an end. The basmati rice is not the only patent dispute, hundreds of patent litigation are filed in Indian courts and a few of them drags innocent farmers in, one such event is PepsiCo vs Farmers.
A dispute between an elephant and an army of ants!
It's well said that “An ant can defeat an elephant.” indeed it was true in the case of patent litigation filed by PepsiCo, PepsiCo accused nine farmers belonging to Gujarat of patent violation and sought 1.05 crore from each farmer. Pepsico maintains a patent of FC5 variety of potato(specially grown for lays).
Soon after the litigation was filed it embroiled controversy in India and PepsiCo was bestowed with censure by legal experts, the key that turned the tables here was that India has no law for patenting a variety of plants, and PepsiCo was brought into backfoot. Eventually, PepsiCo withdrew the case and the ants won.
But this is another authentic saying by Leo Tolstoy that,
Every misconception is a poison: There are no harmless misconceptions.
Assume, someone is lending you his home on rent for 10 years and after completion of that time- interval you still profess that house yours. Is this fair?.
The same happened in the case described below:
The dispute was between the multinational company MONSANTO and all Indian domestic seed manufacturing companies led by NUZIVEEDU SEEDS.
In 2004, Monsanto entered the Indian domestic market and signed a 10-years licensed agreement with Indian seed companies giving them rights to use Monsanto's Genetically Modified cotton technology for business purposes with limitations like they have to mandatory pay licensed trade fees to Monsanto.
But eventually, Indian domestic firms started arguing with Monsanto regarding high trade fees and filed a case against it.
Indian domestic companies were claiming that the Bt. Gene occurs naturally in bacteria and Monsanto only identified it. They
hadn't artificially produced that particular gene, so they can't hold this gene technology as their patent.
As a result, the Delhi high court rejected Monsanto's patent claim over Bt. Cotton under Indian Patent Act 3(j).
Despondent Monsanto took the dispute to the Supreme Court, where the jury recognized that any product manufactured through biotechnology is patentable in India and found a loophole in Indian Patent Act.
Hence, the Supreme Court restored Monsanto company's patent claim and they took a sigh of relief.
#knowledge of patentable rights.
These conflicts of interest emphasize that disputes are not just a battle of claim, it’s a battle of awareness and knowability of one's rights, it doesn't matter if an individual or a country is rich in resources or cultures what matters is their ability to protect them just as in case of basmati rice India stood up for its identity and in Monsanto case, the local companies stood by their rights.
-Priyanka karki (LnKdn)
-Aaditya joshi (LnKdn)