The Commerce Ministry declared that India has finally emerged victorious in the long running dispute over a US patent held by Texas-based firm RiceTec since 1997 on three strains of basmati rice.

India's particular objections to three clauses (15-17) within the 20-clause patent were initially raised in April 2000 when a request for re-examination of the patent was filed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) by the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA).

An official note explained that APEDA's action resulted in the USPTO cancelling the patent's "wide scope" claims that were deemed a potential threat to Indian basmati exports, and RiceTec surrendered claims 4 and 15 to 17.

Since these developments, the USPTO found that a "substantial question of patentability" affected the remaining claims and in March this year issued a formal notice which led RiceTec to withdrew all of the patent's claims except those relating specifically to the unique rice lines (Bas 867, RT 1117 and RT 1121) it has developed (claims 8,9,11,12 and 13).

"With these claims being rejected, the commercial interests of Indian exporters have been fully protected," the note concluded.

High-profile environmental campaigner and head of the Research Foundation For Science, Technology And Ecology, Vandana Shiva, added: "The Basmati battle has been won by us."