By Staff Reporter
American company Dupont Nutrition and Biosciences has applied for Patent rights to Mahewu.
Legal experts contend should the patent rights granted; the company would have the authority to stop local beverage companies from exporting mahewu in their territory.
Mahewu, an African non-alcoholic drink made from thin, slightly fermented maize meal porridge, is produced locally both by individuals for home consumption and companies for commercial purposes.
Intellectual Property lawyer Brenda Matanga said in USA they applied the first to file principle.
“The story is we are not diligent as South Africans (it’s a regional drink this mahewu) and we do not protect what we say is ours,” she said.
“So, anyone is entitled to seek patent rights of this mahewu processing method.
“In the US, it’s first come first serve (they apply the first to file principle – not first to invent) so there is nothing amiss with this -legally.
“What is key also is the patent has not been granted – there are other patents of the same process so maybe the novelty aspect will fall away (if proven during substantive examination).”
Matanga said if Dupont was granted the rights it could stop local companies from exporting their product to its territory.
“So Dupont will stop you all from exporting your mahewus in their territory should the patent be granted,” she said.
“Which is really sad
“Anything else outside this are emotions and sentiments yekubirwa nevarungu… But our local brewing companies may not even hold the rights.”
Locals have expressed concerns over Dupont’s application.
Albert Chimedza questioned the ethics of this practice.
“Is it right for Western scientists and commercial interests to patent the food products, production processes and the intellectual capital of other cultures?” he posted on his Facebook page.
“Should food be patented in the first place?
” It will not be long before they patent all our food, our ideas, our songs, our musical instruments, our dances, our implements, our medicines, our flora and fauna and our genes.
“Such greed for control, power and money!
“Time to take a fresh look at the whole concept of patents.”