Traditional Knowledge is a living body of knowledge that is developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation within a community often forming a part of spiritual and cultural identity. Traditional knowledge as per se that is the knowledge that has ancient roots  and is often informal  and oral, and is not protected by conventional intellectual property right system protection. This scenario has prompted many developing countries to develop their own specific special system for protecting traditional knowledge. India has played a very significant role in documentation of traditional knowledge thereby bringing the protection of traditional knowledge at the center stage of intellectual property right system.  Provision of Traditional knowledge Digital Library  Access Disclosure agreement with several international patent office’s including, USPTO,EPO,WIPO etc. by the indian government has led to  many patent application concerning India’s traditional knowledge have been either been cancelled or withdrawn or claims have been amended in several international patent office.

Traditional knowledge Digital Library

India’s effort on revocation of patent on wound healing properties of turmeric at the USPTO,  and the patent granted by the European Patent office  on the anti fungal properties of Neem. India’s Traditional medicinal knowledge exists in local language such as Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu, Tamil etc is neither accessible nor comprehensible for patent examiners at international patent office. It was identified by TKDL expert GROUP IN 2005, that annually around 2000 patents were granted around the world erroneously concerning Indian system of medicine by patent office around the world. TKDL provides content of ancient text on Indian system of medicine i.e. Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani, and Yoga into five international languages namely french, Japanese, German, English, Spanish, with the help of Information technology tools as an innovative classification system- Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC) Bio-piracy and Misappropriation of TK. The use of intellectual property systems to legitimize the exclusive ownership and control over biological resources and biological products and processes that have been used over centuries in non-industrialized culture can be defined as “bio-piracy”. In other words bio-piracy means misappropriation of traditional knowledge with an intention to gain patent protection over that knowledge.

Turmeric Patent

Turmeric is an tropical herb grown in east India. Turmeric powder is widely used in India as medicine, as food ingredients and a dye to name few of its uses. For instance, it is used as a blood purifier, in treating the common cold  and as an anti parasitic for many skin infection. It is also used as an essential ingredients in cooking many dishes.  The claimed subject matter was use of, “turmeric powder and its administration”, both oral as well as tropical, for wound healing even. An exclusive right has been granted to sell and distribute. The Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research had objected to the patent granted and provided documented evidence of Prior Art to USPTO. USPTO revoked the patent stating that the claims made in patent were obvious and anticipated, and agreeing that the use of turmeric was an old art of healing wounds.  Therefore, the TK that belonged to India was safeguarded in Turmeric case.

Neem Patent

The patent for neem was filed by W.R.Grace  and the Department of Agriculture, USA in European Patent office. The said patent is a method of controlling fungi on plants comprising of contacting the fungi with a neem oil formulation. A legal opposition has been filed by India against the grant of  patent. A legal opposition to this patent was lodged by New Delhi based Research Foundation for Science and Technology and Ecology  in co-operation with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) and Magda Aelvoet, former green Member of the European Parliament. A tree legendary to India from its root to its spreading crown. The EPO identified the lack of novelty, inventive step and possibly form a relevant prior art and revoked the patent. Apart from this, several US patents were recently taken out Neem-based emulsions and solutions.

Basmati Patent

The USPTO granted a patent to ‘Rice Tec’ for a strain of Basmati Rice, an aromatic rice grown in India and Pakistan. For centuries, the farmer in this region developed, nutured, conserved  over a hundred thousand  distinct varities of rice to suit different tastes and needs. In 1997, a patent application Ricetec, also acknowledged that “good quality Basmati rice traditionally come from northern India and pakistan. The Indian Government had pursued to appeal only 3 claims out of 20 claims made in the original patent application of RiceTec Inc. What were being challenged were only claims regarding certain characteristics of basmati (specifically starch index, aroma, and grain dimensions). It is to be noted that WTO Agreement does not require countries to provide Patent protection to plant varieties. It only requires countries to legislate so that plant varieties are protected in some manner (not necessarily through patents).

TKDL as an Global IP system

” Global IP watch monitoring system have an important role to play in enabling the identification of  published  TK-related application on which third parties, in accordance with patent law of country concerned. may file observation.”

Advantage :

  1. TKDL has enabled the submission of third party observation (TPOs), which has proven the only cost effective way of misappropriation of TK  at pre- grant stage.
  2. TKDL has enabled successful opposition of hundred of patent application filed around the world.
  3. Enables immediate corrective action to be taken with zero cost so as to prevent bio-piracy.