Tuesday, 13 May 2008
Patent challenge based on traditional knowledge
Activists have challenged a European patent on a method of extracting an anti-bronchitis drug from plants, says the Daily Dispatch. They want to prove that the method is based on ancient African knowledge. The dispute, which is before the European Patent Office in Munich, involves the southern African plant umckaloabo ( Pelargonium sidoides). Dr Willmar Schwabe of Karlsruhe, Germany, has patented a factory process to obtain the extract. Michael Frein, of the German Lutheran Church Development Service, said the process was effectively the same as the traditional one used in the Eastern Cape town of Alice and in Lesotho to make an anti-bronchitis and anti-tuberculosis remedy. Mariam Mayet of the African Centre for Biosafety said the company had no right to such a patent. But Traugott Ullrich, a spokesperson for the Schwabe company, said umckaloabo had been in use in Europe for more than 100 years, and the company's extraction process was completely unlike the traditional one.