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To send Ethiopian teff to the European market the Ethiopian Intellectual Property Office (EIPO) is waiting the approval of government to sue a Dutch company that registered the teff patent right in Italy, England, Germany and Austria.
The Office which brought an international attorney from Germany to provide training for stakeholders on how to nullify the patent rights from the Dutch companies said that no court case had begun so far although a Dutch company was using the product for the last 11 years.
Tadesse Worku, Societal and Knowledge Development head at EIPO said, “of course we are late due to the complex nature of the patent and if we start suing the Dutch company will be asking to nullify the patent from the Dutch company which will allow our product to enter the European market but we need the government’s approval from the Dutch company.’’
He added that his office is working to stretch a good data system which clearly shows to the local and global community the local staples crop is registered in the country.
Dr. Anton Horn, a German lawyer told Capital that the Ethiopian government can bring its case to the German court to nullify the Dutch teff patent right.
“There are many points that the government of Ethiopia can bring its case to the German court to nullify the patent license from the Dutch company which will help Ethiopia access the European market.”
Previously USA rejected the patent right of teff from the Dutch company.
A 2005 agreement between Ethiopia and the Dutch company HPFI gave HPFI access to 12 Ethiopian teff varieties, which it was to use for developing new teff-based products for the European market. In return, the company was to share substantial benefits with Ethiopia.
However, the high expectations were never met: The only benefits Ethiopia ever received were 4,000 Euro and a small, early interrupted research project.
And then, in 2009, the company went bankrupt. In the years prior to bankruptcy, however, HPFI managed to obtain a broad patent on the processing of teff flour in Europe, covering ripe grain, as well as fine flour, dough, batter and non-traditional teff products. This patent, along with other values of the company, had then been transferred to new companies set up by the same owners.