'Bhang' to trigger new patent war?

WASHINGTON: An ancient Indian high could soon get ‘bhang-alored’ to the United States if the efforts of an American confectioner prove successful.

Scott J Van Rixel, a New Mexico chocalatier, has applied to trademark a product called “Bhang: The Original Cannabis Chocolate.”

Rixel’s highly-anticipated confection, coming amid a rousing debate about legalizing marijuana in the US, is laced with a form of cannabis.

If he gets his first creation through the system, Rixel says he plans to start selling at least two more types of ‘Bhang’ chocolates in the US and may even consider expanding the line to India. He has already incorporated a company named ‘ Bhang Chocolate Company Inc’ for this new venture, according to the Wall Street Journal.

While “Bangalored” has become part of the new-age tech lexicon to describe flight of American jobs to Bangalore, Bhang is the latest Indian product that is coming up for a patent and trademark spat between India and the west, following items such as neem, turmeric and basmati rice.

Pundits believe Rixel’s chances of getting his application through are low because the Indian government has moved quickly in recent years to build a database of traditional Indian biological and medical practices. The now 250,000-strong database, available to international patent offices for reference to stymie trademark infringement, lists “Bhang.”

In fact, long before the US debate over medical marijuana erupted, India has a history of recognizing flower power, with the cannabis-based bhang renowned for its medicinal properties and even religious significance.

Marijuana-based drinks such as “bhang ki thandai” and confections such as bhang burfi are commonly consumed during festivals such as Holi in north India.