10 traditional knowledge


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10 traditional knowledge

  1. 1. © Brain League IP Services Private Limited - 2011 1 TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE raditional Knowledge refers to knowledge inherent in indigenous communities that has been passed to them from their ancestors. The knowledge could be of any type. It could be cultural knowledge, environmental knowledge, medicinal knowledge and so on. The protection is afforded to Traditional Knowledge with the objective of rewarding the indigenous community for preserving such knowledge and to encourage development and utilization of such knowledge for public good. As the knowledge is generally ancient the traditional types of IP protection such as patents, copyrights, trade secrets and so on do not generally apply to its protection. A sui generis system of protection tailored to address the specific needs of traditional knowledge is required. India has provided for partial protection of traditional knowledge through the legislation on protection of biodiversity. This law affords protection to traditional knowledge associated with biological resources by laying down a benefit sharing mechanism. The Biodiversity Act provides that if any person accesses and develops biological resources into intellectual assets, the person can acquire intellectual property protection over such intellectual assets provided the person agrees to share the commercial benefits with the indigenous communities whose knowledge played a very important role in accessing and developing the biological resources. The law has set up a National Biodiversity Authority that monitors the use of biological resources and ensures that the benefits from such biological resources are shared with indigenous communities. By providing for benefit sharing, the law encourages the traditional people to preserve traditional knowledge and to co-operate in development of traditional knowledge. Jeewani Case One case where the benefit sharing mechanism proved effective was in relation to Jeewani, a herbal drug to enhance immunity levels. The case related to Kani tribe, who lived in the Agast- Hymalai hills of the Western Ghats. A group of scientists from the Tropical Botanical Gardens Research Institute (TBGRI) went on a scientific expedition to the hills. During the expedition they observed that the Kani tribals, who were guiding them, were eating some leaves and fruits to avoid fatigue. The scientists identified the plant and discovered that its leaves contained active molecules that had energy and immunity enhancing properties. They developed a herbal drug based on their discovery and commercialized it through Arya Vaidya Pharmacy under the name 'Jeewani'. T
  2. 2. © Brain League IP Services Private Limited - 2011 2 TBGRI agreed to share fifty percent of the profits achieved from such commercialization with the Kani tribes. The case is one instance where the benefit sharing mechanism was successfully implemented. Exploitation of Traditional Knowledge Ownership of traditional knowledge and possibilities of its undue exploitation was noticed for the first time in certain cases where foreign nationals attempted to protect components of the Indian traditional knowledge under the patent regime. Turmeric case In the year 1995, the University of Mississippi Medical Centre was granted a patent for the use of turmeric in wound healing. After a hue and cry about the patent which related to traditional knowledge well known in India, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) filed for invalidation of the patent. CSIR produced an ancient publication, which spoke about use of turmeric in healing open wounds. After reviewing the publication submitted by CSIR, the patent was invalidated. In a similar way, patents over Neem and Basmati were also invalidated. Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) To avoid instances of patent grants to Indian traditional knowledge, the CSIR has taken the initiative to document and publish the Indian traditional knowledge in the form of a digital library also called as 'TKDL'. The TKDL contains details relating to traditional scientific knowledge arranged in an organized manner in consonance with the international patent classification. Copies of TKDL are made available to all patent offices in order to aid them during patent searches. The US and Eu patent offices have started using the TKDL as a part of their regular patent searches. The initiative will definitely go a long way in preventing foreign nationals from getting IP protection over Indian traditional knowledge. Suggested Further Reading Traditional Knowledge Protection of Traditional Knowledge Traditional Knowledge