Thiruvananthapuram

Caution against MNCs appropriating traditional knowledge

The National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Policy unveiled by the Government earlier this month has been widely hailed by experts here, amid reservations about bringing traditional knowledge into the IP regime.

Most experts have welcomed the vision statement on using IP to foster creativity and innovation and the steps proposed to stimulate the generation of IPRs and create general awareness about IPR. The stress on strong IPR laws and the proposal to strengthen the enforcement and adjudicatory mechanism to combat IPR infringements have also found acceptance.

“The move to include IPR in the educational curriculum is a step in the right direction,” says R.S. Praveen Raj, former Patent Examiner, Government of India. He, however, feels that creating monopoly rights on Traditional Knowledge (TK) and classifying it under IPR are fraught with danger in a country like India.

State IPR policy

“For example, it is detrimental to the interests of traditional healers if the knowledge possessed by them is documented in the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) and shared with patent offices. TKDL should be created only on traditional knowledge in public domain known to a large number of TK practitioners.” Dr. Raj, who is currently Senior Scientist at the CSIR- National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology here, said the policy statement on allowing access to TKDL for public research institutions would spur research activities. He concurs with the policy direction advocating caution in permitting private R&D institutions to access the data as it could lead to misappropriation of the knowledge.

He feels that protection of TK should be based on the IPR Policy of Kerala, 2008 which seeks to commit all traditional knowledge to the domain of “knowledge commons” and not to the public domain.

Pros and cons

According to Ajith Prabhu, Joint Director, Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and Environment and Nodal Officer, Patent Information Centre- Kerala, bringing traditional knowledge into the IPR regime could have its pros and cons. “Indian systems of medicine rely on the therapeutic properties of medicinal plants without going into the active principles. By opening up access to the TKDL, we could be providing an opportunity for multinational companies to appropriate the knowledge with cosmetic modifications. On the other hand, it could also spur indigenous research to identify the active principles and develop validated drugs”.

“While the policy highlights the importance of IPRs as a marketable financial asset and economic tool, it is silent on the mechanism for evaluation of IPRs”, Dr. Prabhu says.

Other experts say the policy document has provided a general direction on the steps needed to utilise IPRs as an economic tool. “While we have good IPR laws in place, there is a perceptible lack of respect for IPR in the country. The proposals to strengthen the IPR enforcement machinery and enhance public awareness about IPR will hopefully fill this gap”, says an official.

It is detrimental to the interests of traditional healers if the knowledge possessed by them is documented in the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library and shared with patent offices


Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 23, 2022 8:49:35 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/caution-against-mncs-appropriating-traditional-knowledge/article8643267.ece