Prithwiraj Choudhury & Tarun Khanna
In May 1995, two scientists at the University of Mississippi were granted an American patent for the use of turmeric to treat flesh wounds. Soon thereafter, an Indian research organization won a lawsuit challenging the novelty of the patent. As it turned out, Indians had been using turmeric as a wound ointment for thousands of years. The United States Patent and Trademark Office revoked the patent in 1997.
The case illustrates the issue of "bio-piracy," wherein patentees charge rents for the use of herbal remedies that probably shouldn't have been patented in the first place. full story