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August 21, 2001
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US firm wins patent for basmati rice varieties

The United States patents office has given a 'varietal patent' to a Texan company for selling its three varieties of basmati rice but this in no way prevents India from cultivating and selling its own basmati.

"Giving a varietal patent to a company does not prevent any other body to cultivate basmati rice because no trademark, brand and exclusive marketing rights have been provided," World Agricultural Forum India, co-ordinator Madan Diwan said.

"There is no need to be scared of the patent being given to Ricetec company as it's a routine ruling by US patent office," he added.

Diwan said giving varietal patents is a common practice and it means three particular varieties of basmati rice developed by Ricetec had been registered by US patent office.

Indians could also develop their own varieties of basmati rice because after a court battle in the 1997-2000 US patent office had ruled in favour of Indian government's basmati development fund.

Under the ruling, it cannot give trademark right to a company, which would have debarred any other organisation to use the "basmati" rice name, Diwan said.

Diwan said the latest varietal patent given to Ricetec on August 14 this year was, in fact, a wake-up call for India to put in place a registration mechanism for its own varieties.

This could be done even under the farmer rights' bill passed by the Lok Sabha after the same is cleared by the Rajya Sabha where it comes for discussion on August 23.

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