Colgate Patents Traditional Indian Tooth-cleaning Powder Despite It Being Used For Thousands Of Years

from the locking-up-knowledge dept

Over the years, we've seen a number of stories of big companies going into various countries, finding "traditional" and "herbal" remedies, and then figuring out ways to patent them. The latest such example, sent in by sinsi, involves Colgate "patenting" (in the US) a tooth-cleaning powder based on a recipe that has been used in India for "thousands" of years according to officials there. The patent itself (7,736,629) is for a "red herbal dentrifice" and, if you read the claims, it seems clear that they're just patenting a "recipe" of sorts, which alone seems ridiculous enough. But when you add in the fact that it's been used so widely in traditional Indian society, it gets even sillier. The whole thing appears to be yet another example of companies trying to use patent laws to lock up widely known knowledge... with the Patent Office assisting.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    RD, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:22am

    The Ultimate

    'based on a recipe that has been used in India for "thousands" of years according to officials there'

    Uh....The Ultimate in Prior Art anyone? hello??

     

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  2.  
    icon
    martyburns (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:35am

    Where is Ron?

    Why does ol' Ronald J Riley never pipe up when crap like this is mentioned?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:35am

    Re: The Ultimate

    Well, you know it's all the fault of those half billion Indians who never bothered to register it first with the USPTO.

    They did have "thousands" of years to do it, you know!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:36am

    Ah, must have been approved because of that patent approval process "speed up" they talked about a few weeks/months ago. Good thing it did not affect the quality of the "patenting": The Patent Office is failing faster than ever.

     

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  5.  
    icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:36am

    Re: Where is Ron?

    Now that you named him, he will. :-(

     

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  6.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:41am

    Re: Where is Ron?

    He's busily crafting his next great addition to society: The Eternal Signature....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:43am

    Re: Re: Where is Ron?

    Actually, I would like to know how someone could defend the patent system in light of failures like this one (and others, like patent trolls). It's unacceptable. The system needs deep reforms (my opinion: get rid of it). Anyone that pretends that everything is fine and that this is just an "exception" is either completely retarded of lives off the systems itself. Or has some incredibly awesome justification that I would definitely like to hear (not likely tough).

     

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  8.  
    icon
    The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 11:47am

    Re:

    Look on the bright side, they've gotten way more efficient at sucking ass.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:00pm

    Simple solution

    Eliminate patents.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Re: Where is Ron?

    Does that mean it lasts forever, or that it goes on so long it would take forever to read?

    I think Ron's already achieved the latter.

     

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  11.  
    icon
    Anonymoose (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:08pm

    Kindof like trademarking the ...

    This might be a good time for TechDirt to get a patent for "A Method by which Companies or Individuals who Submit Ideas to a Government Agency Assigned to the Task Are Given Sole Rights to the Idea Submitted for Some Period of Time"

    :)

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    mastmaker, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:14pm

    Here's the irony: For decades, Colgate ran ads in Indian media crowing how damaging that 'red coarse powder' for you teeth and how much better the 'nice fine white colgate powder' is.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:18pm

    If this patent is indeed bogus, then it seems to me it should be a relatively simple matter for anyone here to dissect Claim 1, with all of its limitations, and then point to instances where all the elements required by Claim 1 are contained in any product that has been used...as is asserted...for many centuries.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Jeltz, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re: The Ultimate

    Apathetic bloody planet. I've no sympathy at all.

     

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  15.  
    icon
    Free Capitalist (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:22pm

    Re: Kindof like trademarking the ...

    Very good idea (and username/profile pic), but that would probably just result in Homeland Security reviewing all patents submitted by "activist" individuals and corporations. By "activist" I mean everyone without a club card or a market cap less than $20B.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Re:

    Uh...This site has had several articles noting that:

    A) Getting a patent revoked takes years.

    B) Patents are used as legal bludgeons until someone with enough cash to fight lawsuits in court shows up.

    C) Getting patents revoked during a lawsuit is a crap-shoot, but is unfortunately the most reliable means of doing so.

     

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  17.  
    icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: Where is Ron?

    Thanks to Hawkings revelations concerning the Theory of Relativity, we now know that both are true!

    From the standpoint of the one writing the Eternal Signature (which can only occur during a "Stupidity Singularity"), the signature appears to go on forever (technically, it expands in every direction at once).

    From the standpoint of one reading the Eternal Signature, assuming one is not standing within a "Stupidity Singularity", or a black hole of dumbness, the signature appears always to have an ending, but one never seems to be able to reach it (this is due to the simple Helmetian Equation: RS = Sig * D^2, or Reading Speed equals Signature Size times Despair squared). An interesting side effect is that, should one reach a level of despair so deep that RS, Reading Speed, stops completely, Despair levels return to zero and, here's the most amazing part, the Signature Size is reduced completely to ZERO!

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:10pm

    Really?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Really?

    This stuff has been around for thousands of years?

    "11. The composition of claim 1, further comprising one or more nonbotanical ingredients independently selected from fluoride ion sources, stannous ion sources, zinc ion sources, antibacterial agents, anti bacterial enhancing agents, antioxidants, sialagogues, breath freshening agents, antiplaque agents, anticalculus agents, anti-inflammatory agents, desensitizing agents, whitening agents, analgesics and nutrients.

    12. The composition of claim 11, comprising a fluoride ion source selected from the group consisting of potassium, sodium and ammonium fluorides and monofluorophosphates, calcium fluoride, barium fluoride, zinc fluoride, stannous fluoride, cuprous fluoride, indium fluoride and combinations thereof.

    13. The composition of claim 11, comprising an antibacterial agent selected from the group consisting of triclosan, parabens, cetylpyridinium salts and combinations thereof.

    14. The composition of claim 11, comprising an antibacterial enhancing agent selected from the group consisting of polycarboxylate polymers, PVME/MA copolymers, PVPA, silicone polymers and copolymers, chitosan and combinations thereof."

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    Some dumbasses tried to do the same thing with basmati rice. They got the royal smackdown by the entire Indian government. I am sure their government will smack the bitch that is USPTO around a bit to get this revoked.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Re: Really?

    You have read from what are known as "dependent" claims, i.e., claims that include all of the limitation from an "independent" claim and add additional subject matter.

    The sole independent claim in this patent is:

    1. A tooth powder composition comprising:


    (a) calcium carbonate having properties of particle size and angularity effective to provide mild abrasivity to dental enamel, wherein the particle size is selected from the group consisting of about 0.5 to about 30 μm and about 1 to about 15 μm;

    (b) an effective amount of a red iron oxide of low abrasivity which imparts a red color to the composition; and

    (c) a herbal component comprising at least one botanical agent or extract thereof,

    wherein the calcium carbonate and red iron oxide are present in a weight ratio selected from the group consisting of about 5:1 to about 100:1 and about 10:1 to about 50:1.

    If the above "tooth powder" has been around for as long as stated in the article, then it should be a relatively easy matter for someone to come forth and identify such a tooth powder.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:47pm

    Re:

    Just what I was thinking of. The "Texmati" patent (as it was called, IIRC) got killed, and this one may be too. Even if it survives, it would be impossible to enforce if traditional herbal recipes are similar enough to be "prior art".

    However, reading the patent, it seems to be something else. I am not a chemical engineer, but it seems the crux is using red iron oxide (which is apparently less abrasive than other candidate materials) to color normal toothpaste to look like herbal toothpaste, making it more attractive to Indian customers. I don't know what traditional herbal dentifrices included to get that red color, but I doubt they did it just for the color. On the other hand, red iron oxide is essentially rust, not any exotic chemical, so it's quite possible it was a traditional ingredient.

    BTW, you can try to make it sound frivolous by calling it a "recipe", but that's exactly what all chemical, material or drug-related patents essentially are.

     

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  23.  
    icon
    lostalaska (profile), Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 1:49pm

    Re:

    I'm pretty sure the patent office's "quality" really hasn't changed any in years. With that said, it has pretty much always sucked. Now there sucktatude is just faster.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    vastrightwing, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:22pm

    Circular reference

    I'm going to patent a way to always beat competition by preventing others from being able to use existing methods, ideas and technology. My idea is centered on using the U.S. government and its offices to give someone a unique number which explains that by obtaining this special number, no one else can use this particular idea in any way shape of form, transmitted by any means electronic, mechanical, telepathically or any means not yet discovered. Anyone attempting to use the idea described by the article associated with this special number will be sued by the owner of this special number for as much money, gold or currency the entity using this idea has.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    pr, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 2:48pm

    biopiracy

    This kind of patenting of local knowledge seems to be happening quite often.
    http://www1.american.edu/ted/turmeric.htm

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 3:53pm

    Re: Re: Re: Really?

    "If the above "tooth powder" has been around for as long as stated in the article, then it should be a relatively easy matter for someone to come forth and identify such a tooth powder.'

    The fact that it isn't sold in your everyday U.S. grocery store doesn't mean that it hasn't existed before. Apparently many Indians have been using it and Colgate stole the idea and patented it. Nothing really new, pharmaceutical corporations steal chemicals from herbs that are used for medical purposes and patent them.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 3:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Really?

    I like this one.

    "India is in the process of creating 34 million webpages to document its ancient medicinal techniques to stop them from being claimed by foreign profiteers."

    It's about time. FINALLY!!! and I completely agree with this move. This nonsense of U.S. pharmaceutical corporations patenting ingredients and chemicals isolated from medicinal plants used for thousands of years by indigenous people has been going on for far too long. The indigenous people are the ones who figured out that the plant has medicinal properties, not the pharmaceutical corporations, and the pharmaceutical corporations simply piggy back off of the work of others.

    Ideally, patents should be abolished or at least substantially diminished. The pharmaceutical industry is arguably one of the least innovative in existence (it used to be more innovative back before patents got such a stronghold over it) and patents are partly responsible.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:06pm

    Re: Re:

    Exactly and therein lives the silliness of the patent system for chemistry.

    Want to know what the ingredient is to that fancy whitening activated by sun irradiation(ultraviole light) is?

    Bleach

    How royalty whitned their teeth in the past?

    Using baking soda and strawberries.

    Also baking soda was one of the ingredients for homemade toothpaste.

    I'm no chemist, but the more I learn about how things were done in the past the more silly I think those IP system is, it is all about controlling the market for the benefit of a few people who wouldn't think twice to leave the rest hanging out in the cold.

    That got to be a better way to do things.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    hmm, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:06pm

    i wonder

    what happens if someone patents "a method by which ideas/concepts [yes, I know but bear with me] can be owned as a monopoly by one person, creating revenue via lawsuits and 'licensing agreements'.

    Now heres the rub....The patent would be on patents, therefore the patent office would be an 'interested party' meaning the patent office couldn't object to the patent as it would be promoting its own interests above those of the applicant.....would they have to:

    a) just approve the patent and pay a fee everytime someone applies for a patent
    b) refuse the patent and possibly face the most bizarre lawsuit ever
    c) collapse in the corner crying like a small child with its fingers in its ears, hoping it will all go away!

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:32pm

    Homemade recepies for toothpaste.

    http://www.pioneerthinking.com/teeth1.html

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en& q=toothpaste+home+recipes

    The downside is that there is not fluorine in it and that is the only thing that commercial toothpaste have that homemade recepies don't have.

    To whiten teeth just use hydrogen peroxide with baking soda(to make a paste) and brush your teeth with it.

    That is how people take control again of their destiny, learning to do the things other do for ya and not falling prey to ridiculous demands, but that also is why IP laws exist to stop you from being able to work for yourself, improve yourself and be capable of saying no.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 4:49pm

    I thought you were not allowed a patent upon a recipe.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    vastrightwing, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 5:19pm

    Re: i wonder

    Sir, you are infringing on one or more of my patents here. I described this exact same thing in my idea, second (only after another poster on this forum), so not only are you attempting to patent an idea I came up with, but also a very similar idea I read about before I came up with it. The prior poster will not only sue me, I will sue you. Now if we can get others to come with another similar idea, we can all sue the next person. As more and more people come up with the same idea, we'll all go after the infringers creating a large pyramid like structure so we'll all get rich.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 6:32pm

    Re: Re:

    except, even if the judge declares the patent obvious and refuses to prosecute it, the patent is *not* "revoked" in fact most will turn around and take the same patent that was just declared obvious and start making no fee, or reverse fee deals (where patent troll pays the leaseholder rather than the other way around, in order to make it appear legit). Only the USPTO or an act of congress can revoke a patent.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 7:59pm

    Re:

    Even if true, the problem is that thinking is beyond the scope of government.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 2nd, 2010 @ 8:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Really?

    So they have been measuring in microns for thousands of years?

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    bikey, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 3:50am

    Re: The Ultimate

    Prior art in merca doesn't include use abroad. Handy, what?

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 8:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Really?

    LOL, if I file a patent on a formula for an MRP, and just translated mg. to oz. would that make it an invention?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    staff, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 9:18am

    chemistry

    "they're just patenting a "recipe" of sorts"

    Have you ever heard of...chemistry? Do you ever actually read these patents? Can you understand what you're reading? Ughhh!

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Really?

    My point is not that this is a good patent. My point is that the headline is BS, there are differences that are not 'thousands of years' old. Most td readers seem to take the headline at face value. This kind of exaggeration brings td down to the same level as whatever td is commenting about. I have less respect for td when I see this kind of crap.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    wvhillbilly, Nov 3rd, 2010 @ 1:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: Where is Ron?

    You know they'll never get rid of patents. Lawyers make too much money off of them, suing people. Or, defending them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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