Ethiopia wins legal battle for Teff patent

By Engidu Woldie
ESAT News (February 6, 2019)

A Dutch company has lost a legal battle against Ethiopia for the patent of Teff flour, the ingredient for Injera, an Ethiopian staple.

The Dutch company, Health and Performance Food International, had registered patents for Teff products in Italy, England, Germany and Austria, breaching agreements with Ethiopia.

Last year, Ethiopia took the company to a court in The Hague, which decided in November that the patent by the company has no originality and ruled the patent null and void. The case was however open for appeal but the deadline for the appeal had passed with no legal move from the company.

The former chief of staff for Ethiopian Prime Minister celebrated the news in a tweet: “I just learned that The Court of The Hague ruled against the #Teff patent holder. This is great news. I hope we can learn from this that our national assets must be protected by Ethiopians & friends of #Ethiopia.”

Fitsum Arega, who is recently assigned as Ambassador of Ethiopia to the United States, told ESAT that the vigorous campaign by Ethiopians had helped win the case. He also noted that the country needs to do more in protecting its national assets in international patenting.

Reports also show that the company had filed patents for Teff in the United States and Japan. It is yet to be seen if the decision in The Hague would have an impact on the patent claims elsewhere.

Teff is rich in iron, calcium, protein and is loaded with fiber. Free of gluten and low in fat, it also helps in weight loss.