More than three years after the US patent on basmati rice prompted an international furore, the US Patent Office has granted action groups a considerable victory by revoking thirteen of the twenty grounds originally cited by a Texan rice producer in a bid to claim intellectual property rights over the rice variety.

A relatively small fish in the world of rice production, RiceTec filed the patent in September 1997, arguing that its basmati (Kasmati) was entirely developed and bred from US rice varieties, and that the patent was necessary to protect the company's rights from US competitors.

According to World Trade Organisation rules however, a patent obtained in one member country can be enforced in all WTO nations through the courts, and onlookers swiftly perceived a battle in which the firm's (albeit limited) corporate clout was pitted against the centuries' worth of basmati production by developing world farmers. Action groups argue that such farmers could potentially suffer through lack of export potential to the US, and saw the patent as a blatant bio-pirating of India's natural resources.

In the face of increasing pressure, RiceTec withdrew four of the patent claims in November 2000. In reference to the latest twist, the company insisted to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) that it has the right to respond to the US patent office's objections and that in order for a number of its disputed claims to meet regulations, it need only change the wording of its patent. RiceTec did not specify how many of its claims it will be defending in this way, however.

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