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4-Patents: Letter to U.S. PTO to revoke Basmati patent

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TITLE:  Letter to U.S. PTO to revoke Basmati patent
SOURCE: Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology
DATE:   November 1, 2000

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In 1997 the Texas based RiceTec Inc. obtained Patent No. 5663484 from the 
US Patent Office on Basmati rice lines and grains. The Research Foundation 
for Science Technology and Ecology (RFSTE) at Delhi, India alongwith others 
filed a case in public interest in the Supreme Court of India on March 4, 
1998 seeking the court's direction to urge the Government of India to 
challenge the patent at the US PTO primarily on the grounds that the patent 
by the foreign company is in violation of sovereign rights of our country 
which include the indigenous and inherent knowledge systems of our farmers. 
It was owing to the pending legal challenge at the Supreme Court and a 
resulting Court Order that the Government of India was directed to take 
action to protect the biodiversity and related knowledge of the country.

It was only in June 2000 that the Indian Government filed a "request for Re-
examination" at the US PTO. This challenge to the RiceTec Basmati Patent 
was limited only to claims 15 - 17 of the 20 claims made by the Company. It 
is because of the pressure built up by the people's movements on the issue, 
that the Company RiceTec withdrew claims 4, 15, 16 & 17 from its patent. 
Also the US PTO has opened up all the claims in the patent i.e. claims 1 to 
20 for re-examination. The Government of India as until November 8, 2000 to 
file a reply in its case at the US PTO.

The next step is to have all the claims revoked.

Please call/fax/e-mail to the US PTO officials mentioned below using the 
contents of the following letter:


October 2000

To The Patent Examiners, United States Patent and Trade Mark Office

Re: Cancellation of Patent Number 5663484 wrongly granted to RiceTec for 
Basmati rice lines and grains

Mr. John Doll, Director
Tel: 703 308 1123 
Fax: 703 308 2742

Ms. Paula Hutzell, Supervisor
Tel: 703 308 4310
Fax: 703 308 2742

Ms.Melissa Kimball, Examiner
Tel: 703 305 6999
Fax: 703 305 3592

The patent granted to RiceTec for Basmati rice lines and grains is a 
blatant case of biopiracy - the pirating of genetic material, biological 
resources and indigenous innovation of Third World countries.

The evidence provided by India in the re-examination of the Patent No. 
5663484 shows that not only the grain, but the seeds and plants which 
produce the grain have been bred and cultivated over centuries in India and 
Pakistan. Women peasants in these countries have been the seed breeders and 
the selectors. They have freely shared the seeds resulting from their 
innovation with gene banks and breeders across the world including the 
Americas. It was through this free sharing that RiceTec got access to 
Basmati rice. RiceTec now claims to have invented the Basmati "rice plant", 
the "seed from said plant", "rice grains from rice seeds", the "method of 
selecting a rice plant for breeding or propagation" and the "cooking" of a 
sample of said grains! These are either creative regenerative functions of 
nature or innovations of Asian women farmers who have engaged in this for 

RiceTec has withdrawn claims 4, 15, 16 & 17 related to the Basmati grain. 
In the light of evidence provided by India, which was not available to you 
when the patent was granted, we urge you as patent examiners to cancel all 
claims 1 - 20 in the present case. What is at stake are rights of millions 
of farmers in Asia and the Americas, the biological and intellectual 
heritage of the people of the Indian sub-continent and the integrity of the 

If the US PTO does not strike down the patent in its entirety, it will lose 
its credibility as an institution for identifying and rewarding genuine 
inventiveness and novelty and will acquire a reputation as protector of 
biopirates like RiceTec.

Anticipating your careful reconsideration of the Basmati Patent.

Yours sincerely,

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