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THE CUPUAÇU CASE
(pronounced "coo poo uh sue")
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Cupuacu (Theobroma Grandiflorum) is a small to medium tree in the Rainforest canopy which belongs to the Cocoa family and can reach up to 20 meters in height. Cupuacu fruit has been a primary food source in the Rainforest for both indigenous peoples and animals alike. The Cupuacu fruit is known for its creamy exotic tasting pulp. The pulp is used throughout Brazil and Peru to make fresh juice, ice cream, jam and tarts. The fruit ripens in the rainy months from January to April and is considered a culinary delicacy in South American cities where demand outstrips supply.

Traditional use
Indigenous peoples as well as local communities along the Amazon have cultivated Cupuacu as a primary food source for generations. In former times, Cupuacu seeds were traded along the Rio Negro and Upper Orinoco rivers where indigenous people drink Cupuacu juice after it has been blessed by a shaman to facilitate difficult births. The "beans", are utilized by the indigenous Tikuna people for abdominal pains. **


Economic potential - Cupuaçu Chocolate

Because of the close relationship to the cocoa-tree (Theobroma cacao L.) , in addition to pulp production the seeds of T. grandiflorum (ca. 20 % of fresh weight) can be used for manufacturing chocolate-like foodstuffs. There are initiatives throughout Brazil to develop Cupuaçu Chocolate, in Brazil also known as "Cupulate".
In Japan this product is already being produced and commercialized. Only in the first quarter of the year 2002, the Amazon state exported 50 tons of cupuaçu seeds to Japan.
It is expected that the Japanese will buy approximately 200 tons of cupuaçu seeds for chocolate production next year. Once again, Brazil assumes the insignificant role of a supplier of raw material.


Cupuaçu fruit... processing the fruit ... drying the seeds ...

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Cupulate - Invention of Japanese and American companies?
There is a series of patents on the extraction of the fat from the cupuaçu seeds and the production of cupuaçu chocolate. (see table below). Almost all of them were registered by the company ASAHI Foods Co., Ltd. from Kyoto, Japan.
The alleged inventor, Mr. Nagasawa Makoto is at the same time director of ASAHI Foods and owner of the US company "Cupuacu International Inc" that holds another world patent on the Cupuaçu seed. (click here for the homepage of Cupuacu International Inc)

Cupuaçu - Registered Trademark in Japan, USA and Europe
Besides the patents, ASAHI Foods Co., Ltd. has registered the plant name "Cupuaçu" as a Trade mark for various product classes (including chocolate) in Japan, the European Union and in the US.
It was told us that the lawyers of ASAHI Foods Co., Ltd. threatened with fines of 10.000$ a company that sells cupuaçu jelly in Germany (another holder of the trademark "cupuaçu") because of the use of the name "cupuaçu" on the label.
In conclusion, there is a dispute going on in the EU over the rights of the use of the word "Cupuaçu" for certain products. When checking out export possibilities for sweets and other Cupuaçu products to Germany, Amazonlink.org was told to let the word "Cupuaçu" under no circumstances appear on the product.

Click here for Consultation of trademarks in the European Union
(Type Cupuaçu or Cupuacu and click the search button)

Click here for US trademarks
( Click "Search Trademarks TESS" -> "New User Form Search" )

PATENTS ON CUPUAÇU
Registered by
Registered
where
Publication date
Title
Number
(Click the number for more information from esp@cenet)
The Body Shop International Pic* United Kingdom 05/08/1998 COSMETIC COMPOSITION COMPRISING CUPUACU EXTRACT
GB 2321644A
Asahi Foods Co., Ltd* Japan 30/10/2001 LIPIDS ORIGINATING FROM CUPUAÇU, METHOD OF PRODUCING THE SAME AND USE THEREOF
JP 2001299278
Asahi Foods Co., Ltd* Japan 18/12/2001 OIL AND FAT DERIVED FROM CUPUACU - THEOBROMA GRANDIFLORUM SEED, METHOD FOR PRODUCING THE SAME AND ITS USE
JP2001348593
Asahi Foods Co., Ltd* European Union 03/07/2002 FAT ORIGINATING IN CUPUASSU SEED, PROCESS FOR PRODUCING THE SAME AND USE THEREOF
EP 1219698A1
Asahi Foods Co., Ltd* WIPO - worldwide 03/07/2002 FAT ORIGINATING IN CUPUASSU SEED, PROCESS FOR PRODUCING THE SAME AND USE THEREOF
WO0125377
Cupuacu International Inc* WIPO - worldwide 17/10/2002 CUPUA SEED-ORIGIN FAT, PROCESS FOR PRODUCING THE SAME AND USE THEREOF
WO02081606

 

*We do not know if, or to what extent the term biopiracy applies to each of the holders of patents and trademarks here mentioned. However we consider questionable the patenting and registering of trademarks over plants that are traditionally used by the inghabitants of the Amazon. We invite the holders of these rights to write a comment to defend themselves.
Amazonlink.org does not accept any responsibility for possible consequences of errors or omissions in the provided information.



**References/Footnotes:

  • Balee, William. 1994. Footprints of the Forest. Columbia University Press, New York.
  • Schultes, R.E, and Raffauf, R.F. 1990 The Healing Forest. Dioscorides Press
  • Balee, W., and D. Moore. 1991. Similarity and variation in plant names in five Tupi-Guarani languages (eastern Amazonia). Biological Sciences 55(4):209-262
  • Smith, Nigel, et.al., 1992, Tropical Forests and their Crops, Comstock Publishing, New York

 


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