To patent food seems like an outrageous idea. You can argue that food is food and has been consumed for millions of years. Why would anyone take ownership of a certain dish or name of a dish, and make you pay royalties before you may enjoy it?
The idea is not so far-fetched though. In South Africa, the names, Rooibos (tea) and Karoo Lamb are private property. You are only allowed to use it on your product if you meet certain criteria.
The French also decided that no one is allowed to use the word, champagne, for the delicious, bubbly alcoholic beverage which originated in the Champagne region of France. It is also possible to patent recipes if they are novel and unique. Obviously recipes widely used will therefore be near impossible to patent.
Coca-Cola is famous for not patenting their famous recipe, but they do patent sweeteners. Recipes are eligible for patent protection if they contain patentable subject matter. The question was recently aired whether Zambia had something in that category. Eugene Kabilika, Executive Director of the Roman Catholic aid organisation, Caritas Zambia, stated that Chikanda and Chibwantu are some of the products that should be patented.
He said the royalties could help improve the lives of local people. The power of these products lies in their names and since tourists are willing to pay the price to enjoy local cuisine in restaurants, it will be easy to put a premium on it. You can apply the same principle to the retail sector. Farmers and the processors of traditional foods can claim premiums on the names of the food they produce.
The definition of a dish and the technicalities around such a patent is difficult, though. It will be tough to negotiate this, but it is possible. Farmers are producers and manufacturers of food. They should always look out for opportunities and to add value to their products. They should always get their share of the pie.
This month our magazine is filled cover to cover with articles on exciting products and services which are crucial for farmers who want to move forward. Enjoy!
Du Preez de Villiers – firstname.lastname@example.org