Fromn the Cape Times Newspaper – January 28, 2010 Edition 1
MEMBERS of a small Eastern Cape community are elated after taking on a German pharmaceutical giant over a patent to produce extracts from two local plant species – and winning. “This is the first time that a patent is challenged successfully by Africans. It ends Schwabe’s monopoly over the use of our genetic resources and traditional knowledge,” said Nomtunzi Api, a community representative from Alice.
In a “ground-breaking” judgment in Munich this week, the European Patent Office (EPO) withdrew a patent held by Schwabe Pharmaceuticals to produce an extract from the roots of two species, Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium reniforme. The extract is the active ingredient in
Schwabe’s popular treatment for bronchitis, Umckaloabo. But the patent for the extraction process was successfully challenged by members of the rural Eastern Cape community of Alice, represented by NGO the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) and a Swiss anti-biopiracy watchdog, the Berne Declaration. The patent was also opposed by several of Schwabe’s competitors in a public hearing before the EPO’s Opposition Division.
According to EPO spokesman Rainer Osterwalder, the patent was revoked because the extraction process