Tag Archive: patent

The privatisation of Publically Funded Research in South Africa; Lessons from the US Bayh-Dole experience

In this paper, we present an overview of South Africa‘s Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly funded research and development Act, which imitates the US Bayh-Dole Act. The paper draws on the experience of the Bahy-Dole legislation in the US to show the shortcomings of the common approach aimed at facilitating the transfer of innovative research from the public to the private sector by way of IRP protection including patents. In the US, the Bayh-Dole has dramatically changed the nature of publicly financed institutions from those conducting pure research to quasi commercial entities withholding information in the quest for patent protection.

By Michelle Misaki Koyama

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Africa’s Granary Plundered Privatisation of Tanzanian Sorghum Protected by the Seed Treaty

By Edward Hammond December 2009.

A gene recently isolated from a Tanzanian farmers’ variety of sorghum may yield tremendous pro?ts for multinational companies and government researchers in the United States and Brazil. Called SbMATE, it is not only useful in sorghum; but also may be used in other crops, including genetically engineered (GE) maize, wheat, and rice as well as GE tree plantations.
Government researchers from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa) and the Texas A&M University (US) have patented the gene in the US. They have also ?led an international patent application in which they state that they will seek patents on the Tanzanian gene across the world, including in Africa.
The commercial potential of the gene is strong. Although it was only recently identi?ed, the giant multinational Dow Chemical is already negotiating with the US government to license it. Japan’s second largest paper products company has also expressed interest in buying access to it.

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Patents, Climate Change and African Agriculture: Dire Predictions

Uncertainty and apprehension often afford opportunity to the cunning. This is certainly the case with climate change. The multinational seed and agrochemical industry see climate change as a means by which to further penetrate African agricultural markets by rhetorically positioning itself, even if implausibly, as having the solution to widespread climate concerns. Their so-called ?final solution? to deal with the impact of climate change on African agriculture depends on mass adoption of GM seeds and chemically intensive agricultural practices. This model poses serious biosafety risks and demands the surrender of Africa‘s food sovereignty to foreign corporations and the widespread acceptance of patents on life in Africa.

Despite its obvious pitfalls, this model is being aggressively promoted by multinationals, private philanthropy and some African national agricultural research programmes, often funded by the first two. The money and public relations forces backing the seed giants threaten to drown out other voices and other possibilities for African agriculture.

In this briefing, we expose the forces behind ?climate ready? crops, including the central role played by gene giant Monsanto and provide data on patents on climate genes in respect to key African staple and other food crops.

September 2009

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Genes from Africa: the colonisation of African DNA

?You people. We thought you folks had taken everything you could.
You took our land, you took our homes.
You stole our pottery and our songs and our blankets and our designs.
You took our language and, in some places, you even took our children.
You snatched at our religion and at our women.
You destroyed our history and now,
now it seems you come to suck the marrow from our bones.?

Jeanette Armstrong, an indigenous woman from Canada
at a meeting on the Human Genome Diversity Project

By Edward Hammond and Mariam Mayet

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Pirating African heritage: the pillaging continues – Media release

The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), a non- profit activist organization based in South Africa, has today released a report documenting 7 new cases of suspected biopiracy involving legally untenable patents/patent applications.

Some patents have already been granted and others are still pending in Europe and the USA in respect of African resources ranging from medicinal plants, and marine sponges to human viruses. The patent claimants include European big corporations such as Bayer and Louis Vuitton (Christian Dior), small natural health businesses, and even include the USA government.

?The 7 cases show that the patent systems in Europe and the United States are being used to promote the misappropriation of traditional knowledge and biological resources from the South? said Mariam Mayet, Director of the ACB.

German based agriculture and healthcare giant Bayer, has staked a claim to the use of any extract from any plant of the Vernonia genus in Madagascar for ?improving the skin status.? The patent application appears to violate international law as it duplicates traditional knowledge held by indigenous communities in Madagascar. Bayer has in particular, laid claim to a particular Vernonia species endemic to Madagascar, known as ‘ambiaty’, which is used

Pirating African heritage: the pillaging continues

The cases of suspected biopiracy are summarized and discussed in a few paragraphs. Patent numbers and/or application numbers are provided for each, as well as contact information for the entity or entities that have lodged the patent claims. Using the provided data, the full patent (application) text can be accessed online at patent websites, such as the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), or the European Patent Office (EPO).8 Although patent application documents can be accessed, outside of the US, EU, and a few other countries, accurate national level patent status data can usually only be obtained by contacting the national patent office.

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Read the press release here.

Marine Bioprospecting – key challenges and the situation in South Africa

Marine bioprospecting, also known as marine natural products research, is concerned with the exploration and exploitation of the rich biological and chemical diversity found in marine organisms which inhabit the oceans. Marine bioprospecting is a relatively new endeavour, having its origins in the late 1940’s,8 when Werner Bergman ‘discovered’ arabinoside sugar in marine sponges, a substance which does not occur on land.9,10 This discovery led directly to the development of several anti-viral (ara-A) and anti-cancer (ara-C) compounds.11 Marine bioprospecting gained momentum in earnest during the 1970’s and 1980’s due to improved deep sea collection methods and analyses.12,13 Until then, marine bioprospecting was limited to places of high biodiversity and easy accessibility,such as the tropical seas and coral reefs.14

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Bioprospecting, Biopiracy and Indigenous Knowledge: Two Case Studies from the Eastern Cape, SA

By Misaki M Koyama and Mariam Mayet

Publisher: African Centre for Biosafety (ISBN: 978-0-620-39674-5
Year: 2007, No of pages: 60

New Book Release

This book provides a critical overview of South Africa’s legal regime with a view to investigating its ability to stem the tide of biopiracy involving indigenous knowledge. Against this backdrop, two case studies are discussed from the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. In this province, the vast majority of inhabitants rely on traditional medicine for their health care and cultural requirements.

Misaki M Koyama is a research and campaigner with the African Centre for Biosafety. Mariam Mayet is the founder and Director of the ACB.


Section One: Background and overview of key issues
Section Two: Legal Framework in South Africa: details and shortcomings
Section Three: Case Study 1: Indigenous knowledge and the Pelargonium patents
Case Study 2: Bioprospecting and research institutions


Annexure A: Applicable international treaties and key national South African legislation affecting Indigenous knowledge and bioprospecting

Annexure B: The Schwabe Group


Price: R50 per copy, including postage.

Drug Companies Looting SA’s bounty of Medicinal Plants

The government has stepped in to save a tiny South African plant from extinction after hundreds of tons were harvested for foreign drug companies, one of which has patented its use to fight HIV/Aids. Now traditional healers, who have used the plant for centuries, are trying to win back the patent which they claim is rightfully theirs.

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