Patent protection for natures produce

By May 5, 2010Articles

As a customer centric business portal we at GB ads take this opportunity to share our views on the issue of  marketing and branding of natural products and their claim to exclusive product rights which is becoming a cause for a lot of hot air and seek the views of our users on this delicate issue.

Over the years products like Champagne, Australian cheese, Florida oranges, Scotch whisky, Basmati rice, Cashmere shawls or Conjeevaram saris (an exquisite women’s drape in silk, which derives its name from Kancheepuram a town in Southern India where it is woven) have acquired a strong reputation and brand image attributed by their identity and association with their place of origin. The question being debated is ‘should traditional producers of such products enjoy patent rights, strong brand protection and non infringement safeguards over these products similar to what branded products enjoy? Or should people be allowed to produce them in other geographical locations and market them under the same generic names so long as they adhere to the same manufacturing process and use identical ingredients or raw materials?

It is common knowledge that businesses rely on strong branding to communicate the quality, features or exclusivity of their products, brands invoke a certain image in consumer’s minds and communicate the finer points and nuances of the product, they are exclusive to the product they represent and protected by strong patent laws. Over a period the brand becomes an inextricable part of the product and consumers start identifying the product with it, they also help in differentiating from competitor’s products.

Let us now take a look at nature’s products and the case of natural food producers…

Several individual and combined features lend a special taste, aroma, texture or even nutritive value to products grown or processed in a geographical region lending an exclusivity to them. Nature packs a lot of goodness and originality to its products which cannot be replicated. Several local features like soil quality, weather, altitude, genetic stock etc add a distinct taste and strong personality to nature’s products which would be lost if there is a change in location at any stage, from the growing to the processing stages. These characteristics are quite often more distinctive and exclusive than in the case of manufactured products. So we have Alphonso mangoes, Darjeeling tea, Brazilian coffee, Egyptian cotton or the more exotic Gorgonzola cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese or Melton Mowbray pork pies with their unmistakable taste and features, branded by the names of the regions they come from. These products possess distinctive qualities which make them stand apart and enjoy a certain aura or mystique that acts as their USP (unique selling point).  So it is only fair and logical that these great natural products be extended the same exclusivity that branded products enjoy, the generic branding they have acquired over the years by virtue of their quality is certainly more real than any branding aided by an advertising agency or copywriters and makes their case for exclusive name ownership very strong.
The catch is that unlike manufactured products that have a single owner, natural products belong to growers or producers in the entire region and hence any patent protection should logically cover products originating from the whole region in order to be effective.

While it would be futile to go into how the law has interpreted individual claims made by natural producers to exclusivity and patent protection in terms of upholding or turning down, we as discerning consumers could do our bit in helping to promote genuine natural produce. So next time you see a label which claims Champagne made in the US, Scotch whisky blended in Russia or Australian cheese produced in Belgium, just give it the go by, buy only natural produce that are from the region they belong to and give a hand to the traditional farmers and producers of the given regions, while getting great value for your money.

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