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Legal Roadblocks To Copyrighting Natural Remedies


Kansas City, Mo. – Many in the health and pharmaceutical industries believe that the greatest possibilities for indigenous knowledge in mainstream society may come from natural healing remedies. Commonly used herbal remedies like aloe vera for burns, St. John's wort for depression and valerian root for insomnia are proven not just by clinical trials, but by thousands of years of traditional use.

As KU law professor Andrew Torrance explains, many traditional remedies have the potential to make a lot of money for whoever holds their patent. But just because an indigenous group has a history of using a plant as a remedy, they don't necessarily own the rights to it. In fact two of the requirements of a patent, novelty and non-obviousness, make it so any natural remedy that has a long history of use can't be patented by one person or a group. Andrew Torrance explains more.

This story was produced for KC Currents. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents Podcast.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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