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Colgate accused of stealing, patenting ancient Indian toothpaste formula

Saturday, April 09, 2011 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Colgate, toothpaste, health news

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(NaturalNews) Highly-populated, developing nations like India are the target of many Western corporations because these countries represent a brand new avenue for reaping huge profits. And corporations often unscrupulously hijack the traditions of those countries in the process. The Colgate Palmolive company is one such corporation that is the subject of a legal dispute alleging that it stole an ancient Indian toothpaste formula and patented it as its own.

Back in June, Colgate obtained a U.S. patent for a formula called "red herbal dentifrice" that the company claims was a groundbreaking and unique formula that would be a big hit in India. But its ingredients -- which include clove oil, camphor, black pepper, and spearmint -- are the exact same ingredients that have been used in traditional Indian toothpastes for many centuries.

"This toothpowder is classical in origin," explained Devender Triguna, president of the Association of Manufactures of Ayurvedic Medicines (AMAM), a group that promotes traditional remedies. "The ingredients date back to antiquity. They have been used by the common Indian man for thousands of years. So how can it possibly be patented?"

Triguna's group and others are urging the Indian government to intervene in the matter and challenge the legitimacy of Colgate's patent. If left unchallenged, Colgate's actions will set a precedent for other corporations to freely pillage and patent other traditional folk medicines for financial gain.

According to a WOFL FOX 35 report, Colgate did not respond to requests for comments about the case. But its patent filing claims that the formula is different from the traditional Indian formula because it uses red iron oxide, a type of mineral powder.

Indian officials are actively working to help prevent the "biopiracy" of its ancient folk remedies by setting up 34 million web pages that document the techniques and claim them as Indian property.

Sources for this story include:

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