Economic Times
March 28, 1998

US Company’s chief says patent on Piperine not to hit Indian exports


The export of black pepper, piperine or its oleoresin from the country would in no way be affected by the US patent on piperine obtained by the New Jersey based Sabinsa Corporation, company president and CEO Muhammed Majeed said. He clarified that what Sabinsa Corporation has obtained is a patent for a specific use of piperine.

"Our patent specifically applies to piperine’s use in increasing the bio availability of nutritional compounds like vitamins, amino acids, mineral herbal extracts etc." he said.

"Our patent is not a product patent" he explained. When contacted Mr C K George, executive director, Spices Board, also ailayed the fears that Sabinsa Corporation’s US patent on piperine would adversely affect Indian exports of pepper, piperine or oleoresins. Speaking to The Economic Times, Dr. Majeed said that he also met Spices Board Chairman Jayashanker and clarified his position. Dr. Majeed an NRI who specialises in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, herbal extracts and phytochemicals said that he is clarifying his position as "there is some confusion in both trade and media regarding Sabinsa Corporation’s US patent on piperine."

According to Dr. Majeed, the US patent on piperine is held by also by CSIR and Cadila Laboratories, Ahmedabad.

While these two patents are in drug bio-availability, Sabinsa Corporation’s patent is in bio-availability of nutritional compounds. Moreover, the patent is jointly held by Sabinsa and the Bangalore based Sami Chemicals, another company owned by Dr. Majeed. The row over the patent rights of piperine broke out following a legal notice served by the US $ 28 million, Sabinsa Corporation on the US agent of Kerala based exporter of spice and spice products namely Kancor Flavours and Extracts. The Spices Board officials consider that the legal notice was the result of the wrong interpretation of the patent laws. "Dr. Majeed also agrees to this," they said.

"With Dr. Majeed himself coming here to explain his position and to clarify the misconceptions we do not think that there is anything to worry," a Spices Board official said.

However, the efforts to collect and document all information on the medicinal and therapeutical properties of spices have already started, Spices Board officials said. The information would then be made available to patent offices world wide in order to protect the country’s traditional knowledge in these areas, sources said.

Dr. Majeed’s Indian company, the Rs.32 crore, Sami Chemicals and Extracts in Bangalore has won several awards for export performance, new product development and basic drug development from the Government of India and the Spices Board.

S Sanandakumar