Patrice Riemens on Sat, 4 Dec 1999 16:06:31 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> 'Curry Controversy' (fwd)

----- Forwarded message from Eustaquio Santimano -----

>From Sat Dec  4 00:12:05 1999
From: Eustaquio Santimano <>
Subject: 'Curry Controversy'

Ours is Japanese curry, we can patent it, says House Foods

Paran Balakrishnan in London

The Japanese food giant at the centre of the red-hot curry controversy
has denied that it is trying to patent the flavours of the Indian

Osaka-based House Foods Corporation says it has applied for a patent on
a “Japanese-style curry sauce” which is nothing like the fiery
concoctions which are consumed in South Asia. “Our curry sauce is very
different from Indian curry dishes,” Toshikazu Kato, general manager
(legal), told

The ‘curry controversy’ broke out after a leading British newspaper, The
Independent on Sunday, reported that House Foods Corporation had applied
for a patent on a recipe which it had developed in its kitchens. “Not
content with taking over world markets for cars and camcorders,
entrepreneurs in the Land of the Rising Sun have developed a taste for
tikka masala,” said The Independent on Sunday.

The newspaper’s story triggered a spicy row which has raged from
Birmingham to Bangalore. “If it [the patent] is granted, the so-called
'inventors' will be able to claim royalties every time a curry is sold
in Japan,” said the Yorkshire Post which quoted enraged curry chefs in

House Foods strenuously denies that it is trying to corner the growing
market for Indian curries in Japan by a legal ruse. “The patent
application relates to ready-made Japanese-style curry sauce products
with ingredients such as potato, carrot, onion, beef, curry-roux and
special spice extraction. The feature of the said patent application is
to use special spice extraction,” says
Kato from the company’s headquarters in Osaka.

The company, which is famous for a variety of curry sauces, says it has
applied for a patent on a process developed by its chefs and scientists.
“In Japan, we can patent the cooking method of industrial purpose,” says
the company spokesman. However, the company points out that it cannot
patent recipes which are used “for the purpose of family or personal use
in household”.

Japanese curry dishes are long-standing household favourites. The
Japanese also make a dish called “English Curry” which is a
mild-flavoured favourite especially with children. The curry is usually
eaten with rice. “It has been a long time since curry has been
introduced to Japan. Japanese-style curry sauce is firmly fixed in Japan
as different type of dishes from curry sauce in
India and England,” says Kato.

Britain’s ‘curry millionaires’ don’t appear worried by the Japanese

“It is ridiculous. Can you patent beef roast? Every chef has his own
recipe and own method,” says top food magnate Ghulam K. Noon. Noon
Products is one of Britain’s largest manufacturers of Indian food.

Officials at Britain’s Patent Office also point out that it is tough to
patent recipes. Adds Nigel Parker, a food industry consultant: “It would
be extremely difficult to patent a recipe. You would only have to make a
small alteration to circumvent it.”

But the curry story which was widely reported in the British newspapers
has sparked worldwide interest. The South China Morning Post has
reported that, “An attempt by two Japanese scientists to patent curry
has fuelled a growing debate over how to prevent the wholesale
plundering of its [India’s] native resources.” The newspaper also
reports India’s battles to prevent the
patenting of neem and basmati-style rice.

Ghulam Noon does not believe that the House Foods application would stop
him selling to Japan. “Korma is korma, makhanwala is makhanwala. I won’t
follow their process. There are hundreds of processes,” says the
entrepreneur who has put Indian curry on Britain’s supermarket shelves.

----- End of forwarded message from Eustaquio Santimano -----

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