Final decision of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO): Prince of Liechtenstein's Basmati patent is largely invalid.

Last March, the USPTO had already judged that 13 out of the 16 claims from the patent held by RiceTec (fully owned by the Prince of Liechtenstein) were not valid. After the hearing of the patentee, the final decision confirms - with slight changes - last March's decision. This is a significant success for the worldwide coalition of NGO's - including the Berne Declaration - that had accused the Prince of Liechtenstein of biopiracy.

The decision is now definitive: the rice lines RiceTec had described as its own invention in its patent, are definitely identical to the traditional Basmati rice that has been grown in India and Pakistan for hundreds of years. While RiceTec claimed intellectual property on “its invention”, it eventually turns out to be theft. The decision also calls into question what Florian Krenkel, the Prince's personal adviser, said on the issue. In March this year, he was still claiming that the key points of the Basmati patent would be accepted, and that they only needed to work further and finalise a few elements to win the case.

After the first decision of the USPTO, RiceTec's lawyers voluntarily withdrew 11 claims from the patent and revised two other claims. The only remaining claims in the patent are those relating to three specific rice lines which have been derived from traditional Basmati rice.

The Berne Declaration considers that the patent - even restricted - remains immoral. RiceTec takes advantage of Asian knowledge, without giving anything to the true inventors, the Punjabi rice farmers. The Berne Declaration condemns the patenting of life. In order to ensure global food security, it is crucial to secure free access to seeds for growers and farmers. It is therefore necessary to revise the WTO agreement on Intellectual Property Rights (the TRIPS Agreement) and to have an effective FAO International Undertaking.

At the Swiss level, this also means that the appropriate measures must be taken when revising the law on patents (consultation in December 2001), so as to strengthen international solidarity and food security against the economic interests of agribusiness giants.