A Tree Grows in Colombia: New Patent Provides Local Color


In what may be a first, a new U.S. patent includes a statement about the geographic location of the colorant composition.

The patent – U.S. Patent No. 9,376,569 – issued June 28, 2016 and is entitled “Colorant compounds derived from genipin or genipin containing materials” (‘569 Patent).

The ‘569 Patent relates to a natural blue dye for use in foods and personal care products.  More particularly, the ‘569 Patent is directed to colorant compositions made from the juice of the Genipa americana fruit (pictured above) and methods of preparing the compositions.

The methods include mixing the juice with an amino acid, removing the sugar from the mixture, and isolating the colorant composition.  The colorant compositions comprise purified polymer or dimer compounds obtained from multiple fractioning by chromatography.

The patent is owned by a Colombian company called Ecoflora, which is a member of the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT).  The UEBT is a non-profit that promotes sourcing of ingredients from biodiverse areas and requires that is members comply with its principles on patents and biodiversity.

One of those principles is that patent applications disclose the country of origin of the biological resources and establish a link between patents and agreements on fair trade and benefit sharing.

In accordance with these requirements, the ‘569 Patent contains the following paragraph at the top of the Background of the Invention section:

Statement of Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS)

This invention is based on the extraction and use of a blue dye with edible properties from the fruit of the Genipa americana tree. This tree grows in a variety of rainforests of Colombia. In compliance with the principles of ABS of the Convention of Biological Diversity and its implementing Nagoya Protocol, access to the genetic resources was obtained through agreements with ethnic communities and the authorities charged by Colombian legislation with administering their collective territories. The assignee has also entered into agreements with several community entrepreneurial initiatives that coordinate local production and supply dynamics with commercial partners. Through a shareholding agreement, these community-owned suppliers share in the financial benefits of commercialization of the genetic resources. Additional benefit sharing is provided through Fundacion Espave, a nonprofit organization that is a member of the Union for Ethical BioTrade and that trains local producers on sustainable sourcing in the Pacific rainforest.

This is the first time I’ve seen something quite like this in a U.S. patent.  Presumably, the statement is important to UEBT and its members.

For the rest of us the statement is purely informational and, though it goes beyond the disclosure requirements under U.S. patent law, would not likely have any impact on the validity or enforceability of the patent in the United States.

It will be interesting to see whether more applicants insert the same statement in their patent applications.

More interestingly, will inventions other than genetics relating to biological diversity require certain disclosures?  I wonder, for example, whether there is anything in any climate change agreements that might compel applicants to provide additional information about the source of materials, the use of the invention, or license agreements.

Read more about the patent, the applicant, and the UEBT in an IP Watch article here.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.