Special Correspondent

Move to protect country's traditional knowledge

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved a proposal to sign an agreement with patent offices across the world to allow patent examiners to access the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) created by the National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) on India's traditional medicine systems.

The signing of the pact is expected to benefit the country immensely as it could help prevent scientists abroad from getting patents on various medical remedies that are already known to Ayurveda and other traditional medicine systems of India.

This is because once the pact is signed, the patent offices across the world will be obliged to refer to the TKDL to assess whether the remedy is new or is based on knowledge already available in the Indian systems of medicines, as and when scientists apply for such patents.

Speaking to The Hindu, NISCAIR Director V. K. Gupta said data on 65,000 formulations in Ayurveda, 70,000 in Unani and 3,000 in Siddha had already been put in the TKDL.

The data relating to only 7,000 formulations each in Unani and Siddha, and 1,500 postures in yoga remained to be included and the entire process was expected to be completed by December next year.

The data are being made available in five international languages English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese.

A salient feature of the pact will be that the patent offices will be able to use the digital library only for patent search and examination.

The patent examiners will not be able to disclose the information to any third party unless it is essential for the purpose of patent search and examination.

Dr. Gupta said that while the focus so far had been on formulations known to the traditional systems of medicine, efforts were now under way to have similar digital libraries for other types of traditional knowledge such as traditional architecture, food practices, biodiversity and folklore. Work had recently begun on putting together the digital libraries on architectures and food practices.

TKDL is a collaborative project of NISCAIR, the Department of Ayush under the Union Health Ministry and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion under the Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

The project was taken up in 2001.