Patenting Developing Countries’ Traditional Knowledge As New Invention: An Examination of the Teff Processing Patent Claim by a Dutch Company and the Way Forward

  • Beka Melkamu Tesgera
Part of the Ethiopian Yearbook of International Law book series (EtYIL, volume 2018)


Many agree that Teff originated in the highlands of Ethiopia. Teff is a gluten free grain that has a growing market in Europe and North America. This could potentially revolutionize the agriculturally led economy of Ethiopia. However, Ethiopia is unable to access the European gluten free market for now due to a patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) to a Dutch company called Health and Performance Food International (HPFI). The patent relates to the Eragrostis Teff flour and some Teff end products. This article will attempt to answer the question of whether the Teff patent right that was granted by the EPO under the European Patent Convention (EPC) meets patentability requirements. It also further discusses the role of traditional knowledge that is entangled with the processing of Teff. In addition, it explores which avenues or jurisdictions are more suitable to challenge the Teff patent in Europe. Finally, the article will suggest legal instruments that can be used to protect Teff and Teff products in the future.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beka Melkamu Tesgera
    • 1
  1. 1.Independent Trade Law ConsultantAddis AbabaEthiopia

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