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India US Patent Wars – An interesting Case Study

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Significant Aspects of Traditional Knowledge and Patent Issues

Traditional knowledge is the expertise, awareness, experiences, applications, and knowledge that are performed, established, continued, and passed on from generation after generation.Most of these activities have become a part of the social, cultural, and spiritual identity within various regions. It is quite common that art, culture, and technology have always been transferred from one generation to another within several communities.

Patent protection of TK

Gathered from ancient roots and experiences, this knowledge is mostly communicated orally.Thus, it has no defense under the legal system of intellectual property protection. It is mentioned in the Patents Act that TK cannot be used for Patent filing in India as it is not considered an innovation or invention in any case.

All you need to know about Traditional Knowledge

Most of the practices prevalent in the present times can be considered as the collective knowledge of all the innovations and inventions that have taken place in the past. Meanwhile,most of the designs have indeed become a cultural attachment of many communities. Also, traditional knowledge has resulted in new inventions. One of the most famous examples of traditional knowledge is Turmeric. Turmeric has a lot of applications and uses when it comes to medicines, cosmetics, pest repellents, and many more.

The role of digital library

TK can be any useful information written or verbally passed by several communities that are already in existence. To prevent Patent filing in India on traditional knowledge, the law has taken the initiative to publish all the information of TK by a digital library, popularly known as the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library.

Role of TKDL in Patent rights

The current intellectual property rights situation can be a little complicated at times. Your patent application will get rejected if you do not adhere to the rules and regulations as set up by the Convention on Biological Diversity. At the same time, if you claim to discover or invent a new species of herbal products which have been a TK of countries from centuries, then your application should not be accepted.
Biopiracy has become a significant concern over the past few years. An efficient, as well as extensive Traditional Knowledge Digital library, is essential to curb this problem. It can be done in minimal time with minimal effort. Hence, the significance of TKDL should not be underestimated at any point. The role of WIPO is crucial in the overall scheme of things where Biopiracy is concerned. Some organizations want to possess the ownership of TK to exploit them for commercial profits.

India US patent wars over Turmeric

Turmeric is a tropical herb that grows in various regions of East India. It has many medicinal properties. The herb is also used for dyeing as well as a cooking ingredient. People over the decade consume it because it is also a blood purifier. However, in the year 1995, the US government granted a patent right on Turmeric to medical centers for the herb’s wound healing property.

Exclusive permission was also given to distribute or sell Turmeric or its related products. To this, the Indian government objected to patent rights allowed to the Mississippi medical center. The country also provided proofs through the TKDL that showed evidence that Turmeric was used for ages in almost every Indian household and that it was a part of their Traditional Knowledge. The information present in the Digital Library mentioned the facts in different languages, mainly Urdu, Sanskrit, and Hindi.

The pieces of evidence compelled USPTO to accept that the claims made in the traditional knowledge related to Turmeric are an old art invented in India. Hence, the TK that belonged to India was protected in the case of Turmeric.

Filing a patent for Neem

The Department of Agriculture and W.R. Grace filed the patent for Neem. They claimed that they first invented the use of Neem oil to control the growth of fungi in plants. But the permission was rejected when a Legal opposition was filed by India against the claiming of a patent for Neem. The disagreement against the copyright was presented by the New-Delhi based Research Foundation for Technology, Science and Ecology along with the Magda Aelvoet who is a former green Member of the European Parliament and International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

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