The Opposition Division of the European Patent Office (EPO) has today revoked a patent granted to Dr. Willmar Schwabe (Schwabe) in its entirety.

The patent was opposed by the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) from South Africa acting on behalf of a rural community in Alice, in the Eastern Cape, in collaboration with the Swiss anti-biopiracy watchdog, the Berne Declaration. The patent was in respect of a method for producing extracts of Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium reniforme to make Schwabe’s blockbuster cough and colds syrup, Umckaloabo.

It was revoked because the Opposition Division found that the patent did not satisfy the requirements of the European Patent Convention dealing with inventiveness. Both species of pelargonium are harvested from the wild in the Eastern Cape and exported to Europe for the production of Umckaloabo.

Nomtunzi Api, a representative from the Alice community, expressed elation in response to the revocation, “this is the first time that a patent is challenged successfully by Africans. It gives us hope for the future because the patent ends Schwabe’s monopoly over the use of our genetic resources and traditional knowledge.”

According to Mariam Mayet of the ACB, “Patent systems are seriously flawed. It is inherently unfair that public interest NGOs should have to challenge patents, at enormous effort and expense, to bring about equity and justice in protecting resources and traditional knowledge from the South.”

For more information, view the related documents here.