US firm patents Kerala tribe's Jeevani
by G Rajiv
Friday Jan. 6, 2006 Thiruvananthapuram.

Apathy, indifference and sheer lethargy on part of Government has enabled an American firm to surreptitiously procure the trademark patent of Jeevani, a popular herbal compound with regenerative powers, developed with the active participation of tribals of Kerala. Jeevani, an ethno-pharmacological herbal compound made from indigenous medicinal plant extracts, was developed by Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI) after eight years of research and with the help of the native knowledge of tribal communities of Kerala.

For a decade, neither TBGRI nor any other agency of the Government bothered to secure an international trademark or patent both the product and the process.

Suddenly, everybody has woken up to the fact that a leading US food supplement manufacturer and vitamin store chain, Great Earth Companies Inc, has secured trademark rights for Jeevani. The American company is now using Jeevani in its widely marketed product 'Jeevani Jolt 1000' without technically infringing the intellectual property rights of the original Jeevani. The ingredients mentioned in the American product are the same as those in the original Jeevani, such as withanis somnifera (ashwagandha), piper longum, and evolvalus alsinoides besides the main ingredient arogyapacha.

Jeevani, known as the ginseng of the Kani tribe of Kerala, is a herbal formulation famed for its anti-fatigue, immunity-enhancing and liver-protecting qualities. Widely used as a wonder drug by the tribe, it strengthens the body's natural defences by activating the cellular immune system and enhances a host of other innate faculties.

The formulation is based on an extract of the plant, Trichopus Zeylanicus subspecies Travancoricus, endemic to the Western Ghats, with a heavy concentration in the Agastyar hills of Kerala.

Jeevani was developed by TBGRI here and an Indian process patent was acquired. The TBGRI-tribal partnership on Jeevani, with half the royalty going to the tribe, has been acclaimed as a model in benefit-sharing for which the institute got the UN Equator Prize in 2002.

After patenting, the product was subsequently licensed out to Coimbatore Arya Vaidya Pharmacy for manufacturing and marketing for a period of seven years. In 2002, the UN Environment Programme and the World Trade Organisation even accepted the Kerala model on Jeevani as a global model in benefit-sharing and recognising intellectual property rights of indigenous people in accordance with the guidelines of the UN Convention on Biodiversity Treaty.

Interestingly, Jeevani, the globally renowned herbal drug, does not enjoy a global patent protection even a decade after its development, but only has an Indian process patent, which is not valid in international markets. The TBGRI is yet to apply for patent protection in international markets. Confusion also prevails whether the process patent of Jeevani is still valid in India.

Jeevani was earlier trapped in a controversy when Nutrisciences Innovations LLC, a New York-based firm, applied to secure trademark rights a year back. Interestingly, this company has now withdrawn its claim due to the controversy. This US company, a global supplier of herbal drugs, registered Jeevani under the US Trademark Rules for some time and the product was being freely sold in the US market without the knowledge of TBGRI.

Now, according to Great Earth Companies Inc literature, the product has 'trichopus zeylanicus together with other herbs in a botanical complex named 'Jeevani'. Successful clinical trials were conducted with Jeevani, making it available in the West as an energiser, 'anti-stress' adaptogen, and immune system supporter.

Among the Kani tribals of Kerala, trichopus is known as arogyappacha, meaning green health and vitality, says the company literature. The product is being sold at a price of US$ 21.99 per 60 capsules, instead of the original Jeevani sold in granular form.

(Source : Daily Pioneer)