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Patent not cause of chromium-tainted capsule scandal

(Xinhua)

15:11, April 28, 2012

BEIJING, April 28 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese patent official has refuted claims blaming patented technologies for gel capsules made from toxic chromium-tainted industrial gelatin.

The official's comments came after some netizens revealed online that the country's patent authorities granted a patent decades ago for the technique of using scraps of leather material to manufacture gelatin -- the most infamous source of contaminated medicine capsules in a recent scandal.

Netizens found a relevant patent application document on the website of the State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO), but authorities did not actually grant the application, Feng Xiaobing, a senior official of the SIPO's patent bureau, told Xinhua.

The bureau conducted a thorough check on similar patent applications following the capsule scandal and found that 10 similar applications were filed, including two that were granted patents. However, the two granted patents are no longer in effect, so there are no valid patents on similar techniques at this time, Feng said.

Moreover, Feng stressed that a patent provides a kind of exclusive right to the holder to prevent others from using a certain technique, but does not approve the application of the patented technique in the market.

"For example, China granted more than 8,600 medicine patents in 2011, but not all the medicines are marketable unless proper permits from relevant authorities are obtained," the official said.

The granting of a patent will not justify the illegal use of patented contents, Feng said.

A regulation on the production of edible gelatin issued by the Ministry of Health in 2005 explicitly banned the use of leather scraps in edible gelatin manufacturing.

The official also noted that patent authorities, in accordance with the Patent Law, can revoke a granted patent if it is found to be detrimental to public interests.

An investigative report from China Central Television (CCTV) earlier this month revealed that several companies manufactured drug capsules with industrial gelatin made from scraps of leather material, which contains a greater amount of chromium than edible gelatin.

Chromium can be toxic and carcinogenic if ingested in excessive amounts.

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