Pubdate: Sat, 06 Nov 1999
Source: San Luis Obispo County Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 1999 The Tribune
Contact:  P.O. Box 112, San Luis Obispo, CA 93406-0112
Fax: 805.781.7905
Author: David Ho, Associated Press


Group Say Hallucinogenic Plant Is Sacred To Indians

WASHINGTON - A California businessman is decrying the temporary rejection
of his 13-year-old patent on a hallucinogenic plant because of a challenge
by South American groups that claim the plant is sacred to Indians.

"We remain totally confident that our patent is valid, and we are
absolutely confident this frivolous challenge is doomed to failure," Loren
Miller said in a statement.

In 1986, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued Miller patent No.
PP5,751 for a plant described in his patent abstract as "Da Vine" and
characterized by its "medicinal properties."

The plant, Banisteriopsis Caapi, a vine found in the Amazon rain forests,
is used to make a mind-altering drink known as ayahuasca, pronounced
eye-ah-wah-ska. While used by South American Indians for religious and
healing ceremonies, the plant has often been sought by anthropologists,
botanists and drug enthusiasts interested in its psychoactive properties.

The Patent Office rejected the patent Thursday because of evidence the
plant had been described in publications more than a year before Miller
applied for the patent.

But Miller's patent remains in force, said the Patent Office spokeswoman
Brigid Quinn. It would be permanently rejected if he fails to present
additional evidence within six months "to show hwy he should keep the
patent" she said.

The Center for International Environmental Law and two Amazonian groups
challenged the patent, saying the law under which it was granted is flawed.

"The PTO needs to change its rules to prevent future patent claims based on
the traditional knowledge and use of a plant by indigenous peoples," David
Downes, a lawyer, said.

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