Lutter contre la biopiraterie

OTTAWA– En avril 1999, un citoyen des Etats-Unis propriétaire d’une société de semences dénommé Larry Proctor obtint un brevet de l’Office des brevets américains (USPTO – US Patent and Trademark Office) pour un haricot jaune mexicain. Ce brevet lui accordait les droits de propriété exclusifs d’une variété de haricot qu’il intitula « Enola ». Cette décision est l’un des exemples les plus scandaleux de biopiraterie dans l’histoire de la propriété intellectuelle.

Le haricot pour lequel Proctor a obtenu un brevet est une espèce – appartenant au domaine public depuis des siècles – cultivée à l’origine par les fermiers mexicains. Il est consommé à travers tout le Mexique et aux Etats-Unis par des Mexicains et Mexicains-Américains sous le nom de Mayocoba, Canario ou encore Peruano.

Même si cette variété existait déjà parmi les espèces courantes de haricots, il aura fallu dix ans, des centaines de milliers de dollars, des manifestations massives d'agriculteurs et de la société civile, l'intervention d’agences internationales et la publication de cinq décisions judiciaires pour que le USPTO finisse par annuler le brevet en juillet 2009. A cette époque, Proctor avait détenu le monopole complet de la production, de la distribution et du marketing du haricot pour plus de la moitié de la durée de vie du brevet.

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