Caution on classifying traditional knowledge under IPR

Govt. vetting draft Bill on traditional knowledge

August 28, 2015 12:00 am | Updated March 29, 2016 05:57 pm IST

ven as the government has initiated the process of vetting a draft Bill on the protection and management of traditional knowledge (TK), experts caution against creating monopoly rights on TK and classifying it under intellectual property rights.

Prepared by a six-member committee headed by Dr. N.S. Gopalakrishnan, Director, Inter University Centre for IPR Studies, CUSAT, the draft Bill is understood to have proposed the constitution of people’s trusts for protection of TK at the panchayat and district level, on the lines of the Biodiversity Management Committees. The Bill has been referred to the Law Department for verification.

“We should be careful in creating registrable rights on TK”, says R.S. Praveen Raj, a former examiner with the India Patent Office and currently a scientist at the CSIR-National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology (NIIST) here.

He feels that any attempt to codify community-held TK in the form of Traditional Knowledge Digital Libraries (TKDL) using “Prior Informed Consent” and “Access and Benefit Sharing” concepts would be a gross injustice to those communities if the knowledge was shared with patent offices. Designed to prevent misappropriation of traditional knowledge, TKDL contains approximately 2,08,000 formulations based on Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Yoga. India has signed an access agreement with the European Patent Office and US Patents and Trademark Office on the premise that the database shall be used for search and examination only. “It leaves the scope for private appropriation of TK by making cosmetic improvements,” says Dr. Raj.

Docketing system

In a letter to the government, he proposed the creation of a Traditional Knowledge Docketing System to indicate the location at which the knowledge is available, the community that possesses the traditional knowledge, the nature of TK and community protocol, if any. “The communities should be empowered to take appropriate intellectual property rights on the innovations made by them on the TK and to negotiate with the potential customers by forming societies or trusts of their own.”

Experts feel that the law on 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. According to the policy, the community or family custodians will have rights to knowledge that belonged to them, while the rest of the traditional knowledge will belong to the State.

All rights holders of traditional knowledge will be deemed to have a ‘commons licence’ under which the rights holder permits others the use of the knowledge for non-commercial purposes. The commons concept was designed to ensure that the incentives for research would not lead to proliferation of proprietary rights.

Experts say protection should be based on IPR Policy of Kerala, 2008

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