Aug 6, 2009

A patent for chicken tikka, how stupid

The next time you order chicken tikka just pause and think. A Pakistani-born British MP Mohammed Sarwar is trying to seek a patent over the spicy chicken tikka claiming that it was invented in the Scottish city of Glasgow in the 1970s. He has tabled a motion in the lower House of British Parliament and wants the European Union to grant Glasgow with "Protected Designation of Origin" title for the dish.

Chicken tikka was earlier crowned as Britain's nation dish.

Surprised? Well, I am not. The entire patent game has reached absurd levels. It is not chicken tikka alone, several other popular Indian dishes have been targets of monopoly control. You have probably heard of earlier attempts by the Japanese to patent Indian curry. The patent still stands. Nestle has already drawn a patent over vegetable pulao. Meanwhile, the British city of Birmingham has applied for European protection for balti dishes.

A patent protection for balti, how stupid. I had always thought that balti (meaning a bucket) was an idea of an enterprising chef who wanted to serve something different than the usual way of serving Indian curries and other dishes in a karahi. It is only in Europe that I find Indian dishes being served in a balti. In India we still have the tradition of karahi. Now if this is the extent to which the food industry is trying to seek monopoly control, I am sure someone must be contemplating a patent application for karahi.

The IANS quotes Zaeemuddin Ahmad, a chef at Delhi’s Karim Hotel, which it says was established by the last chef of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. I am sure he knows much better than us as to the origin of the popular dish chicken tikka. Ahmad says that the recipe had been passed down through the generations in his family. "Chicken tikka masala is an authentic Mughlai recipe prepared by our forefathers who were royal chefs in the Mughal period. Mughals were avid trekkers and used to spend months altogether in jungles and far off places. They liked roasted chicken with spices,” he was quoted as saying in media reports.

I wish Zaemuddin Ahmed had earlier drawn a patent on Chicken tikka. Although I remain opposed to the patenting and IPR system, but I think a time has come when we should defeat them in their game. Only then will the patents lose their sheen and control. It is high time India woke up to the threats from patents. Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Ministry of Science & Technology in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce should launch a drive to not only create awareness but urge Indians to file patents on such culinary traditions.   

I only hope that India does not have to fight the Scottish patent over chicken tikka like the way it did to get the patent on the healing properties of turmeric revoked in the US Patent and Trademark Office. Later, India had to take up the case of a patent drawn on the scented basmati rice. In the case of basmati rice, India had put together some 50,000 pages to establish that it was a prior art meaning that it was known to exist earlier. Imagine if we have to repeat the exercise again, to establish that chicken tikka was a prior art and there is no novelty attached to it !!

I remember when Nestle drew a patent on vegetable pulao, I was on a TV show where ofcourse Nestle had refused to come. They sent a written statement. You will not only be surprised but shocked to learn what the company claimed. Nestle said that it had developed a new kind of vegetable pulao meaning with some new ingredients. I had challenged saying there are already some 500 kinds of vegetable pulaos so I wonder what is this 501st kind that the company has invented. Anyway, the patent was drawn for Switzerland, and still exists.

1 comment:

Yayaver said...

Its not about Chicken Tikka, it is our illiteracy in the field of Intellectual property rights and patent that hurts us. Neem and turmeric patent has been won by us still unnoticed by our mainstream media. This negligence will cost us heavily one day.