|TKDL contains information from Indian Systems of Medicine, viz., Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa as well as Yoga available in public domain. For this, traditional knowledge from the existing literature existing in local languages such as Sanskrit, Urdu, Arabic, Persian and Tamil in converted into digitized format, and is available in five international languages including English, German, Spanish, French and Japanese. Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC), an innovative structured classification system for the purpose of systematic arrangement, dissemination and retrieval was evolved for about 5,000 subgroups against few subgroups available in International Patent Classification (IPC), related to medicinal plants. The information is structured under section, class, subclass, group and subgroup as per the International Patent Classification (IPC) for the convenience of its use by the international patent examiners. The TKDL database comprises about 4.24 lakh formulations/ practicesthat has been transcribed from ISM and Yoga texts.
|Each text is read, medicinal formulation/ practice identified and converted into a structured language using Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification by subject (Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa or Yoga) experts. The codes are then filled into the data entry screen. The content (prior art) from ancient texts are also saved in the database. The translated version of all the TKRC codes is ported in the database. The abstraction is done by the subject experts. The codes once saved in meta data directory are converted in different languages based on Unicode technology. The formulations are converted into English, German, French Japanese and Spanish languages. The converted format of the formulation is readable and can be understood in general by all.
|TKDL software with its associated classification system i.e., TKRC converts text in local languages into multiple languages as mentioned above. It may be noted that TKDL is not a transliteration, rather it is a knowledge-based conversion, where data abstracted once is converted into several languages by using Unicode, Metadata methodology. Traditional terminology is also converted into modern terminology, for example, Jwar to fever, Turmeric to Curcuma longa, Mussorika to small pox etc.
|TKDL includes a search interface providing full text search and retrieval of traditional knowledge information on IPC and keywords in multiple languages. The search features include single or multiple word searches, complex Boolean expression search, Proximity search, Field search, Phrase search, etc in the form of simple and advance search options. Simple search lets the user search a combination of keywords. Advance search lets the user search using Boolean expressions, using the expressions like “near”, “and”, “and not”. Searches are also available on IPC and TKRC codes.
|TKDL acts as a bridge between formulations existing in local languages and a Patent Examiner at a global level, since the database will provide information on modern as well as local names in a language and format understandable to Patent Examiners. It is expected that the issue of the gap on lack of access to prior art traditional knowledge shall get addressed.
|Rice Tec. Inc. had applied for registration of a mark Texmati before the UK Trade Mark Registry. Agricultural and Processed Food Exports Development Authority (APEDA) successfully opposed it. One of the documents relied upon by Rice Tec as evidence in support of the registration of the said mark was the US Patent 5,663,484 granted by US Patent Office to Rice Tec on September 2, 1997 and that is how this patent became an issue for contest.
|This US utility patent was unique in a way to claim a rice plant having characteristics similar to the traditional Indian Basmati Rice lines and with the geographical delimitation covering North, Central or South America or Caribbean Islands. The US PTO granted the patent to Rice Tec on September 2, 1997. The said patent covered 20 claims covering not only novel rice plant but also various rice lines; resulting plants and grains, seed deposit claims, method for selecting a rice plant for breeding and propagation. Its claims 15-17 were for a rice grain having characteristics similar to those from Indian Basmati rice lines. The said claims 15-17 would have come in the way of Indian exports to US, if legally enforced.
|Evidence from the IARI (Indian Agricultural Research Institute) Bulletin was used against claims 15-17. The evidence was backed up by the germplasm collection of Directorate of Rice Research, Hyderabad since 1978. CFTRI(Central Food Technological Research Institute) scientists evaluated the various grain characteristics and accordingly the claims 15-17 were attacked on the basis of the declarations submitted by CFTRI scientists on grain characteristics.
|Eventually, a request for re-examination of this patent was filed on April 28, 2000. Soon after filling the re-examination request, Rice Tec chose to withdraw claims15-17 along with claim 4.Biopiracy of traditional knowledge is not limited to India alone. In fact, there have been several examples from other countries where traditional knowledge biopiracy has become a concern. Some of these examples are given below:
|For generations, Shamans of indigenous tribes throughout the Amazon basin have processed the bark of B. caapi Mort. to produce a ceremonial drink known as Ayahuasca. The Shamans use Ayahuasca (which means wine of the soul) in religious and healing ceremonies to diagnose and treat illness, meet with spirits, and divine the future.
|American, Loren Miller obtained US Plant Patent (no.5, 751 issued in 1986), granting him rights over an alleged variety of B. caapi Mort. which he had collected from a domestic garden in Amazon and had called Da Vine, and was analyzing for potential medicinal properties. The patent claimed that Da Vine represented a new and distinct variety of B. caapi Mort., primarily because of the flower colour.
|The Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organisations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), which represents more than 400 indigenous tribes in the Amazon region, along with others, protested about a wrong patent that was given on a plant species. They protested that Ayahuasca had been known to natives of the Amazon rainforest and it is used in traditional medicine and cultivated for that purpose for generations, so Miller could not have discovered it , and should not have been granted such rights, which in effect, appropriated indigenous traditional knowledge. On reexamination, USPTO revoked this patent on 3rd November 1999. However, the inventor was able to convince the USPTO on 17th April 2001, and the original claims were reconfirmed and the patent rights restored to the innovator.
|For thousands of years, African tribesmen have eaten the Hoodia cactus to stave off hunger and thirst on long hunting trips. The Kung bushmen, San who live around the Kalahari desert in southern Africa used to cut off a stem of the cactus about the size of a cucumber and munch it.
|In 1995, South African Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) patented Hoodias appetite-suppressing element (P57) and hence, its potential cure for obesity. In 1997 they licensed P57 to British Biotech Company, Phytopharm. In 1998, Pfizer acquired the rights to develop and market P57 as a potential slimming drug and cure for obesity (a market worth more than £ 6 billion), from Phytopharm for $ 32 million. The San people eventually learned of this exploitation of their traditional knowledge, and in June 2001, launched legal action against South African CSIR and the pharmaceutical industry on grounds of bio-piracy. They claimed that their traditional knowledge has been stolen, and the South African CSIR had failed to comply with the rules of the Convention on Biodiversity, which requires the prior informed consent of all stakeholders, including the original discoverers and users.
|Phytopharm conducted extensive enquiries but were unable to find any of the knowledge holders. The remaining San were apparently at the time living in a tented camp 1500 miles away from their tribal lands. The South African CSIR claimed that they have planned to inform the San of the research and share the benefits, but wanted to make sure that the drug proved successful.
|The two sides entered into negotiations for a benefit-sharing agreement, despite complications regarding who should be compensated: the person who originally shared the information, their descendants, the tribe, or the entire country. The San are nomads spread across four countries.
|However, in March 2002, a landmark agreement was reached in which the San were to receive a share of any future royalties. Since then however, hoodia has made entry into the gray market and to what extent the San community is aided from the benefit sharing remains to be seen.
|Phyllanthus amarus Schum.et Thonn. is used for Ayurvedic treatment for jaundice. A US patent has been taken for use against Hepatitis B. The plant Piper nigrum Linn. is used for Ayurvedic treatment for vitiligo (a skin pigmentation disorder). A patent has been taken in UK for the application of a molecule from Piper nigrum Linn. for use in treatment of vitiligo.
|The appropriation of elements of this collective knowledge of societies into proprietary knowledge for the commercial profit of a few is a major concern. Urgent action is needed to protect these fragile knowledge systems through national policies and international understanding linked to IPR, while providing its development and proper use for the benefit of its holders. What is needed is a particular focus on community knowledge and community innovation, enterprise and investment is particularly important.
|The local communities or individuals do not have the knowledge or the means to safeguard their property in a system, which has its origin in very different cultural values and attitudes. The communities have a storehouse of knowledge about their flora and fauna, their habits, their habitats, their seasonal behaviour and the like-and it is only logical and in consonance with natural justice that they are given a greater say as a matter of right in all matters regarding the study, extraction and commercialization of the biodiversity. A policy that does not obstruct the advancement of knowledge, and provides for valid and sustainable use and adequate intellectual property protection with just benefit sharing is what is needed.