TWN Info Service on Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge (July12/01)
5 July 2012
Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are pleased to welcome you to our new TWN Biodiversity and Traditional Knowledge Information Service that will provide the following:

1)† Selected articles and analysis on biodiversity and traditional knowledge issues, in particular as they relate to the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing;†††††††††

2) Investigative reports on potential biopiracy cases, with a focus on patents and patent claims; and

3) Related developments in other intergovernmental processes, including the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the World Trade Organisation and the follow-up to the outcome of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

In this first mailing, we reveal that Avon Products, the US-based cosmetics firm internationally known for its ďAvon ladiesĒ, is seeking patent control over a wide variety of Asian medicinal plants. The company has filed six patent applications on use of the plants in skin creams in the past several years. These claims collectively cover sixteen different Asian plant species, some of which are used to treat skin problems in various types of Asian traditional medicine.

To date, three US patents have been issued, and three applications remain pending. Avon is seeking rights in others countries, including inside Asia itself. At present, the company is using five of the plants in more than twenty four skin care products it sells worldwide. These products are some of Avon's main entries in the lucrative global skin care market, which totals nearly US $90 billion per year in sales.

Where and when did Avon acquire the plants it claims, and what, if any, benefit sharing arrangements are in place? The answers to these questions may clarify the implications of Avonís patent claims for countries that are Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, particularly those that have joined the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing or who already have national Access and Benefit Sharing laws.

The briefing paper by Edward Hammond is titled: "The Avon Lady comes collecting Asian medicinal plants - Iconic cosmetics firm seeking to patent numerous Asian medicinal and food plants". It provides an introduction to Avon's claims, which should be investigated further. With many of the plants that Avon claims grown and traditionally used in several countries, the patent claims also show the importance of regional cooperation to confront biopiracy.

The full paper is available at:

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Thank you.

With best wishes,

Third World Network
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10400 Penang,