Monday 22 August 2016

Patent office turns down ITC's application for smokeless agarbatti

A patent application of multi-business conglomerate ITC Ltd, which sells agarbatti brand Mangaldeep, for a smokeless incense product at a cost-effective manner was rejected by the Indian Patent Office for lack of inventive steps, among other objections. The company said its invention was to prepare an incense stick with no smoke but fragrance, and it would be an eco-friendly product with higher productivity and cost advantage
in several ways. In an application filed in 2007, the company had said traditionally, the raw agarbattis were made of jigat, a herbal powder, charcoal and kuppam dust, and raw agarbattis are perfumed either by dipping in or brush coating with fragrance solution made with diethyl phthalate (DEP). Agarbattis thus made emits high amount of smoke when burning.

At the time of filing the application, for “a unique masala composition for smokeless agarbatti product”, the company said, that while the smokeless products are available in international market at a very high cost, its invention is aimed to produce an agarbatti, which not only is eco-friendly, but also can be manufactured at a low cost compared to presently available similar product.

“The agarbatti based on the novel composition is on par with conventional agarbattis on all performance parameters including sensory attributes,” it said. It also offers reduction in production time and thereby higher productivity. The novel composition eliminates the use of DEP thereby reducing cost but without compromising the performance of end product, said the company.

In an order issued on Friday, the Assistant Controller of Patents and Designs, Patent Office, Kolkata, refused the patent, owing to lack of inventive steps and under Section 3(e), which explains that a substance obtained by a mere admixture resulting only in the aggregation of the properties of the components thereof or a process for producing such substance is not patentable, among others.

ITC, one of the major players in agarbattis, commenced marketing agarbattis sourced from small-scale and cottage units in 2003 and provides livelihood opportunities for more than 14,000 people, according to company reports.

According to reports, the brand is one of the biggest agarbatti brand in the country. The agarbatti category sustained its high growth trajectory anchored on a diverse range of high quality products, growing franchise for the ‘Mangaldeep’ brand and enhanced distribution reach, said the company in its latest annual report.

It added that while the raw materials like bamboo and charcoal are available in India, the industry continue to import raw battis from Vietnam and other countries as imports are allowed into the country at a low rate of customs duty. This is affecting the livelihood of women and people in rural areas, particularly in the north-east. It has commented that suitable changes in policy needed towards encouraging indigenous raw agarbatti manufacturing to improve the situation.

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