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July 24, 2000
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India challenges basmati patent in USPTO

It took two years and two committees for the Indian government to file a petition before United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) challenging the grant of patent on basmati rice to Ricetec Inc, Texas, the Centre informed the Supreme Court.

"The Government of India has now filed a petition before the USPTO for re-examination of the grant of patent to Ricetec," an affidavit filed by the Centre stated.

However, it said "even if India succeeds at USPTO, it will not prevent Ricetec from continuing to call its rice strain a 'basmati-like' or 'basmati strain'."

On the other hand, the government said regardless of the grant of patent, Indian farmers could grow basmati rice without any hindrance on account of Ricetec's patent.

Explaining the delay, it said the government had to constitute an inter-ministerial group under the chairmanship of the secretary of Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion as the nodal group to formulate a strategy to challenge the grant of patent to Ricetec.

Separately, a technical committee under the chairmanship of secretary, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, was also formed to examine the matter from the technical point of view, the government said.

Explaining the setting up of the committees, it said the procedure before USPTO is "one-shot" where by all documentary material justifying re-examination must be made available in the first instance.



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