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PATNEWS: NIH disclaims patent on human cell line from indigenous person (fwd)

  ---------- Forwarded message ----------
  Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 19:14:27 -0500
  From: Gregory Aharonian <srctran@world.std.com>
  To: patent-news@world.std.com
  Subject: PATNEWS: NIH disclaims patent on human cell line from indigenous person
  !19961203  NIH disclaims patent on human cell line from an indigenous person
  The Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) sent out the following
  press release today (info about RAFI on the bottom).  This issue is not going
  Greg Aharonian
  Internet Patent News Service
             *** Official Notice to Coincide with Human Rights Day ***
      After months of indecision and confusing signals, the US National
  Institutes of Health (NIH) has finally put an end to its internationally
  denounced patent on the human cell line of a Hagahai indigenous person from
  Papua New Guinea. "I hope this is the end of what is arguably the most
  offensive patent ever issued." says Alejandro Argumedo of the Canada-based
  Indigenous Peoples' Biodiversity Network (IPBN).
      While not yet officially announced, NIH filed paperwork to "disclaim"
  the patent at the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) on October 24, 1996.
  The NIH disclaimer forfeits all of the US Government's "past and future
  rights in each and every claim of United States Patent No. 5,397,696... 
  thereby relinquishing all control over said patent."
      "Three up, three down." says RAFI's Executive Director Pat Mooney,
  referring to the trio of US Government patents and patent applications on
  indigenous peoples' cell lines that RAFI has opposed. "With Panamanian
  indigenous people from the Guaymi General Congress, we successfully pressured
  the US to withdraw its first patent application for an indigenous persons'
  cells." says Mooney. "Later, in collaboration with the Solomon Islands
  Government, RAFI surpressed another US government patent application for the
  cells of a citizen of that country."
      "Once a patent is granted, it's harder to get rid of." says RAFI's Edward
  Hammond. "This made the job more difficult in the Hagahai case.  Despite
  initial statements by the US Government that it had the informed consent of
  the Hagahai and approval of the Papua New Guinea Government for the patent,
  under a RAFI Freedom of Information Act petition 
      NIH produced nothing to substantiate these claims." But NIH still
  stubbornly clung to the patent until charges of bio-colonialism from
  indigenous people, NGOs, and foreign governments across the globe forced it
  to relent.
      Even in disclaiming the patent, NIH has left unaddressed many of the
  numerous inconsistencies and missteps that have dogged the US government
  since the beginning of the patent controversy in 1994. A backgrounder on
  the patent recently prepared by NIH "raises many more questions than the
  few it credibly answers" says Neth Dano of the South East Asia Regional
  Institute for Community Education (SEARICE) in the Philippines.
      "We've been consistent, and right, all along while the US government
  has equivocated and contradicted itself." says Dano.  "If, as the US State
  Department said, they patented the Hagahai 'for their benefit', why did
  the US not even bother to contact the Hagahai when it gave up the patent? 
  Why does NIH blame a reseacher in Papua New Guinea for the US Government's
  own patent?  The Papua New Guinea Institute for Medical Research has said
  that it followed NIH's lead."
      According to NIH, government notice of the patent disclaimer is slated
  to appear in the Patent and Tradmark Office's Official Gazette on December
  10, which is also International Human Rights Day. While the PTO's timing of
  the announcement appears to be coincidence, indigenous people and NGOs find 
  it poignant and ironic.
      "There has been no greater affront to fundamental human rights by Western
  intellectual property systems than the Hagahai patent," says Argumedo  "The
  disclaimer is cause for celebration for indigenous people.  At the same time
  it gives us all a chance to reflect on the immorality of industrialized
  countries allowing the commodification of human cells, genes, and other
  Although the US Government's strikeout on indigenous peoples' cell line
  patents is encouraging, the scope and number of patents on human tissues
  is dramatically expanding.  Indigenous people, RAFI, and other NGOs remain 
  vigilant and oppose other current and future moves to patent human tissues.  
  Ontario, Canada:	Pat Mooney or Jean Christie, RAFI
  			Tel: 	(613) 567-6880
  			Fax: 	(613) 567-6884
  			E-mail:	rafican@web.net
  			Alejandro Argumedo, IPBN
  			Tel: 	(613) 237-5361
  			Fax:	(613) 237-1547
  			E-mail:	ipbn@web.net
  North Carolina, USA:	Edward Hammond or Hope Shand, RAFI
  			Tel:	(919) 542-1396
  			Fax:	(919) 542-0069
  			E-mail:	hammond@rafiusa.org
  Manila, Philippines	Neth Dano or Rene Salazar, SEARICE
  			Tel: 	63-2-921-7453
  			Fax:	63-2-921-7453
  			E-mail:	searice@gaia.psdn.org
  On the internet:        http://www.charm.net/~rafi/rafihome.html
  ABOUT RAFI:  RAFI is an international non-governmental organization
  headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada) with affiliate offices in
  Pittsboro, North Carolina (USA). RAFI is dedicated to the conservation and 
  sustainable improvement of agricultural biodiversity, and to the socially
  responsible development of technologies useful to rural societies. RAFI
  is concerned about the loss of genetic diversity - especially in agriculture
  - and about the impact of intellectual property rights on agriculture and
  world food security.