1986-2003 – Ayahuasca Is Patented in the US
Loren Miller, director of California-based International Plant Medicine Corporation, had brought a sample of B. caapi to the US in 1981. In 1986, an ayahuasca US patent was granted to Miller, who received exclusive rights to breed and sell the vine, which he named Da Vine and claimed to be a new species of plant. About a decade later, the indigenous communities caught wind of this action and attempted to get Miller to withdraw his patent. He ignored their repeated requests.
Eventually, the Coordinating Body for Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), a group based in Ecuador and representing over 400 indigenous groups from eight countries, stepped in and challenged Miller’s patent arguing that it was improperly issued. Their request was approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the patent was nullified in 1999.
However, the PTO allowed Miller to submit new evidence, disregarding COICA’s argument that B. caapi’s religious value should exempt it from any patenting attempt. Two years later, Miller’s patent was allowed to stand yet again, until its expiration date, which came on June 17, 2003. The patent cannot be renewed, and, seeing as its original instatement likely originated solely from the lack of awareness of ayahuasca’s existence, it’s not likely to happen again.