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Japan in a hurry to claim rights to curry

NIPPING OUT for a vindaloo may never be the same again. In what must be the ultimate Indian take-away, the Japanese are trying to claim the patent for curry.

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.

The House Foods has filed an application with Japan's patent office claiming to have invented the favourite dish of the British, not to mention a billion people in the sub-continent.

Patent application No 06090838 lists two Japanese, Hirayama Makoto and Ohashi Sachiyo, as the "inventors" of "cooking a curry", a dish which the Encyclopaedia Britannia says was originally "adapted" by British settlers from the spice mixes of Indian cuisine. The name comes from the Tamil word "Kari", meaning sauce.

The application, for the means "to easily cook a curry having excellent taste and flavour" seeks to control the process from chopping board to dinner plate. It is still being considered by the Japanese authorities, but if it is granted, the "inventors" will be able to claim a royalty every time a curry is sold in that country.

And it might not stop there, for, under World Trade Organisation rules, member nations have to pass laws by next year protecting intellectual property such as patents.

Already a Texas-based company, RiceTec, has patented a variety of Basmati rice, which it claims to have developed. India grows 650,000 tonnes of the rice a year.

India is expected to challenge the patent on Basmati rice, and calls the curry application "a matter of concern".