By filing an action for annulment, the patent law team of the law firm of Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek ensured that the disputed teff patent no longer exists in Germany. The granting of the European teff patent was perceived as great injustice in Ethiopia, because it protected a well-known foodstuff by a European company under patent law. The plaintiff in the nullity action, Dr. Anton Horn, Head of the Heuking patent team, filed a lawsuit against this injustice. Now the way is clear for less expensive teff flour, which is particularly popular with people who need or prefer gluten-free foods.
The “teff patent” (EP 1 646 287) protects a flour made from teff (“Eragrostis tef”), a type of grass that has been cultivated in Ethiopia and Eritrea for more than 5,000 years. Teff is gluten-free and rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Particularly among people with gluten intolerance (celiac disease), it is enjoying increasing popularity worldwide.
The patent law experts at Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek examined the case and arrived at the conclusion that the patent had been granted wrongly. As the Dutch patent holder failed to respond to an out-of-court letter, the law firm filed a patent nullity suit with the Federal Patent Court in Munich on March 29, 2019.
In response to the action for annulment, the patent holder waived the German part of the teff patent in a brief dated June 13, 2019. This waiver has been entered in the patent register of the German Patent and Trade Mark Office. Consequently, there is no longer a teff patent in Germany.
“Patents are important, and it is just as important to avoid wrongly granted patents. This is especially true when they monopolize traditional knowledge and disadvantage consumers. It is therefore a great success that the teff patent no longer exists in Germany,” said Dr. Anton Horn.