Navigation Links
US Patent Office rejects company's claim for bean commonly grown by Latin American farmers
Date:4/30/2008

WASHINGTON, DC (30 APRIL 2008)The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today rejected all of the patent claims for a common yellow bean that has been a familiar staple in Latin American diets for more than a century.

The bean was erroneously granted patent protection in 1999, as US Patent Number 5,894,079, in a move that raised profound concerns about biopiracy and the potential abuse of intellectual property (IP) claims on plant materials that originate in the developing world and remain as important dietary staples, particularly among the poor.

A research center, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (known by its Spanish acronym, CIAT), which is supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), led the legal challenge to the patent through the USPTOs reexamination process.

We are happy that the patent office has reached a final decision in this case but remain concerned that the ex partes patent reexamination procedure meant that these patent claims remained in force for such a long time, said Geoffrey Hawtin, Director General of CIAT, which has been fighting the patent since 2001. For several years now, farmers in Mexico, the USA and elsewhere have unnecessarily endured legal threats and intimidation for simply planting, selling or exporting a bean that they have been growing for generations.

At issue is a hearty and nutritious yellow beansimilar to the pinto beanthat is known to plant breeders as Phaseolus vulgaris but is commonly called azufrado or Mayocoba bean by Latin American farmers and consumers. In the 1990s, a Colorado man, Larry Proctor, bought some beans in a market in Mexico and after a few years of plantings, claimed he had developed what he called a new field bean variety that produces distinctly colored yellow seed which remains relatively unchanged by season. He dubbed it the Enola bean, filed a patent application and obtained a 20-year patent that covered any beans and hybrids derived from crosses with even one of his seeds.

Under USPTO rules, material published before a patent application that was not brought to the attention of the patent examiner can be used to reverse a granted claim. CIAT sought a reexamination of the Enola patent. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and ETC Group (formerly RAFI, the Rural Advancement Foundation International), a Canada-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, also denounced the Enola bean patent.

CIAT was able to dispute the inventors claims to a unique color by providing published evidence of 260 yellow beans among the almost 28,000 samples of Phaseolus in its crop genebank. At least six of the CIAT varieties were, to most observers, identical to the bean described in Proctors patent documents on the basis of color and genetic markers. CIAT also put forward publications to show that the claims in the patent application took credit for research already widely available in scientific literature and thus claims made regarding the breeding of the bean in his patent also failed to meet the patent offices statutory requirements for non-obviousness and novelty.

In addition, CIAT pointed out that Proctor had not obtained a permit to export the beans from Mexico and that a version of the bean variety in question had been released to the public by the Mexican government in the 1970s.

Yet Proctor actively enforced his patent. At one point, the patent-holders US$0.6-claim on every pound of yellow beans sold in the United States caused a steep decline in exports of such beans from Mexico to the USA, according to Mexican government sources.

The patent office issued a preliminary decision in 2003 rejecting all the patent claims and gave a final rejection in December 2005. Proctor filed an appeal through the USPTO, and in accordance with USPTO rules, the patent remained in force while the appeal was being considered by the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI). Proctor can still appeal the USPTO decision in the US federal courts, all the way to the Supreme Court venue, a costly move; if he so chooses.

We understand that individuals and companies have a right to patent what are clearly novel agriculture innovations, said Hawtin. But when food crops are involved, particularly crops that have been used for years, governments have a duty to ensure that they have been presented with a clearly distinct and novel discovery and that the plant material used in the research and development was lawfully obtained. Agricultural researchers have a responsibility to make sure that publications are easily available to patent examiners.

CIAT officials said that, while they were concerned about the immediate economic impact of the Enola patent, more broadly, they worried that the patent would establish a precedent threatening public access to plant germplasmthe genetic material that comprises the inherited qualities of an organismheld in trust by CIAT and research centers worldwide.

The CIAT genebank is one of 11 maintained worldwide by the CGIAR, where crop materials such as seeds, stems and tubers are held in trust with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The genebanks house a total of about 600,000 plant varieties in publicly accessible collections, which are viewed as the pillar of global efforts to conserve agriculture biodiversity and maintain global food security. Plant breeders in both the public and private sectors are constantly seeking access to these resources to help them breed new types of crop varieties, particularly when existing varieties are threatened by pests or disease.

Hopefully, this case can help guide future reviews of patent applications and future preventive actions on the part of the CGIAR Centers, so that farmers who have been growing a particular variety for over 100 years will not wake up one day to discover that their traditional crops have suddenly become someone elses intellectual property, said Victoria Henson-Apollonio, Manager of the CGIAR Central Advisory Service on Intellectual Property (CAS-IP), the CGIAR office charged with assisting the Centers on matters of IP.

CIATs patent challenge is part of the CGIARs ongoing effort to ensure that intellectual property claims regarding plant materials do not falsely seek to privatize materials already in widespread use. The challenge was endorsed by the FAO and the Genetic Resource Policy Committee of the CGIAR.


'/>"/>
Contact: Ellen Wilson
ewilson@burnesscommunications.com
301-652-1558 ext. 5723
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. bioMETRX, Inc. Acquires Patent for Biometric Padlock
2. bioMETRX, Inc. Acquires Patent for Biometric Padlock
3. Parus Interactive Awarded Patent for Speech-Activated Remote System Management
4. Patent Issued for e-Smart Technologies, Inc.s First Biometric Match-on-Card Technology
5. Translational research patented first experimental treatment against idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis
6. Cornell patents a pink lily look-alike that blooms all summer long
7. Biotechnology needs 21st century patent system: Expert
8. BIO-key(R) Granted Image Identification System Patent for Award Winning Biometric Technology
9. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, CIO to Speak at Government Security Conference
10. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, CIO to Speak at Government Security Conference
11. Easton, PA Police Officers Armed With BIO-key(R) Mobile Data Solution Access Information Anytime, Anywhere
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/30/2017)... 30, 2017  On April 6-7, 2017, Sequencing.com will ... hackathon at Microsoft,s headquarters in ... focus on developing health and wellness apps that provide ... the Genome is the first hackathon for personal ... largest companies in the genomics, tech and health industries ...
(Date:3/29/2017)...  higi, the health IT company that operates the ... , today announced a Series B investment from ... The new investment and acquisition accelerates higi,s strategy to ... population health activities through the collection and workflow integration ... collects and secures data today on behalf of over ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... 2017 The Controller General of Immigration from Maldives ... Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award for the most ... Reading ... Maldives ... Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received the IAIR award ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/21/2017)... ... April 21, 2017 , ... Frederick Innovative Technology Center, Inc. ... bio and technology start-ups, is hosting “Celebration Friday” (a festive gathering highlighting client ... with libations and networking at 3:30 p.m. at FITCI’s 4539 Metropolitan Court location, ...
(Date:4/20/2017)... ... April 20, 2017 , ... USDM Life Sciences , the ... and healthcare industries, is pleased to announce Holger Braemer as Vice President ... Europe GmbH” based in Germany. , Braemer is an integral part of USDM’s ...
(Date:4/20/2017)... CA (PRWEB) , ... April 20, 2017 , ... ... of clinical trials worldwide, announced today that they were named one of the ... which covers the latest developments in the pharmaceutical industry. , “We take pride in ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... April 18, 2017 , ... ... 1970s and has been a key device for generating monodisperse droplets of known ... droplet processes and for generating monodisperse solid particles by drying monodisperse droplets. ...
Breaking Biology Technology: