About 400 years ago, tea was first introduced to the British, but China was the ONLY nation with monopoly on tea production and methods.
The British did 2 things to end China’s monopoly, (1) sold Opium to offset China’s tea profits, and (2) stole China’s IP on tea via “botanical espionage.”
That history of botanical espionage, continued later in America, where tobacco plants, oranges, cotton, were stolen from the Europeans to end British monopoly.
But now, modern day corporations are similarly scouring through Africa and Latin America, stealing secrets of local people, and leveling forests to find new plants for medicines.
The story of how British stole China’s tea technology was one of earliest stories of IP protection (trade secrets) and industrial espionage.
The British hired Robert Fortune to sneak himself into the Chinese tea growing countryside, to steal the tea plant and the tea processing method. All along, Chinese laws prohibited foreigners from venturing in-land, precises to protect the Tea knowledge.
China had one advantage, the tea plants all came from the “mother trees” in China. It made it very difficult for the British to outright steal the plant and grow their own.
The British managed to, however, find another specie of tea used by the people in Assam, and promptly decided to steal some of that secret, and piece together with what they had already learned from their samples from China. They then were able to establish their own tea plantations in India.
*Some have said China didn’t have a history of IP.
Tea’s history proved otherwise. China jealously guarded its tea IP. The British promptly ignored it and violated it.
Today, modern corporations are still doing it, with total disregard for native rights in Africa and Latin America, in pursuit of profits.
The only difference now is, the modern corporations, while slashing through Rain Forest, are stamping their IP rights on discoveries that they stole from the natives, and then preventing even the locals from using it.
*The point is: IP really is in the eye of the beholder. It only matters to those who want to protect their own rights.