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PIIPA helps get to the root of maca biopiracy

The February 2011 PIIPA Monthly Case Study, entitled "Traditional Knowledge & Biopiracy: The Peruvian Maca Root", explains that the maca root is an herbaceous, perennial, cultivated crop that is native to the Andes in Peru. Maca plants have medicinal values that include increasing libido, stamina, fertility and alleviating insomnia -- which presumably makes them useful for bloggers. For centuries, the people in the Andes have been using the maca root for its medicinal properties and now maca is exported around the world. The Peruvian people’s use of maca for medicinal purposes is an example of traditional knowledge.

PIIPA -- the Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors -- records that the National Institute for the Defense of Competition and Intellectual Property (INDECOPI) is a Peruvian government agency charged with the responsibility for market promotion and protection of consumer rights, as well as ensuring honest competition while protecting all forms of intellectual property. It seems that INDECOPI discovered that there were over 100 patents directed to inventions related to Peruvian indigenous plants, the maca root or that included maca derivatives in the patent claims. With the pro bono assistance of US law firm Sterne Kessler Goldstein & Fox, INDECOPI formulated an anti-biopiracy policy which involved the compilation of a dossier of maca-related prior art as well as lodging some patent oppositions.

You can download the full case study here.

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