Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) - A Model to Protect Traditional Knowledge of India

By V. K. Gupta

The author is Senior Advisor and Director, TKDL, CSIR, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research,  Ministry of Science &Technology, Govt. of India

New Delhi, Jan 17, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) TKDL is a collaborative initiative between Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Ministry of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, and Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and a maiden Indian effort to prevent misappropriation of traditional knowledge belonging to India at International Patent Offices. TKDL has overcome the language and format barriers by scientifically converting and structuring the traditional medical knowledge of Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha in 34 million A4 size pages of the ancient texts in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Tamil into five international languages, namely, English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish, with the help of information technology tools and a novel classification system - Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC). Today, India through TKDL is capable of protecting about 2.5 lakh medicinal formulations similar to those of neem and turmeric. TKDL access has been given to eight International Patent Offices which are European Patent Office (EPO), Indian Patent Office, German Patent Office (GPO), United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office (UKPTO), United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), IP Australia and Japan Patent Office (JPO) under Access (non-disclosure) Agreement. Based on the evidences of prior art submitted by the TKDL team on the basis of the information present in the TKDL database, so far 88 patent applications of the pharma companies of United States, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, China, etc. have been either set aside or withdrawn/cancelled or declared as dead patent applications at no cost and within few weeks of submission of prior art evidences, whereas cancellations of patents have been known to take 4-13 years of complex and expansive legal battle. Considering the novelty, utility and its effectiveness in preventing the grant of wrong patents several countries and organizations have expressed their keenness in replicating the TKDL model for their own countries. World Intellectual Property Organization including the global IP community has recognized India’s leadership in the area of Intellectual Property Rights and Traditional Knowledge and an International Conference on utilizing India’s TKDL as model for protection of Traditional Knowledge was held by CSIR and WIPO in March, 2011 at New Delhi where 33 developing countries participated.

Genesis Of TKDL Initiative

TKDL genesis dates back to the Indian effort on revocation of patent on wound healing properties of turmeric at the USPTO and anti-fungal properties of neem at EPO. Besides, in 2005, the TKDL expert group estimated that about 2000 wrong patents concerning Indian systems of medicine were being granted every year at international level, mainly due to the fact that India’s traditional medicinal knowledge existed in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Tamil, etc. which was neither accessible nor comprehensible for patent examiners at the international patent offices. TKDL has overcome the language and format barriers by scientifically converting and structuring the available traditional medical knowledge in 34 million A4 size pages of the ancient texts into five international languages, namely, English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish, with the help of information technology tools and a novel classification system - Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC). TKDL has been responsible for the reform of International Patent Classification (IPC) by enhancing the IPC on Traditional Knowledge from one subgroup to 207 subgroups which enables effective search and examination process on the patent applications related to traditional knowledge subject matter. IPC reforms in the context of TK are fundamental reforms in the International Patent System which would have long term implications.

TKDL Breaks Distance, Format And Language Barriers Between TK Holder(S) Knowledge And International Patent Examiners

TKDL is a proprietary and original database. TKDL is based on 318 identified books of Indian Systems of Medicine, which are available at a cost of Rs. 1, 00,000.  These books are the prior art and can be sourced by any individual/organisation at national/international level.  TKDL acts as a bridge between these books and international patent examiners. It is the TKDL technology which has created a unique mechanism for a Sanskrit sloka to be read in languages like German, Japanese, English, Spanish and French by an examiner at EPO or any other International Patent Offices on his computer screen.

Access To TKDL Under TKDL (Non-Disclosure) Access Agreement

Access of TKDL to International Patent Offices is available under TKDL Access (Non-disclosure) Agreement. Under the agreement, examiners of patent office can utilise TKDL for search and examination purposes only and can not reveal the contents of TKDL to any third party unless it is necessary for the purposes of citation. TKDL Access Agreement is unique in nature and has in-built safeguards on non-disclosure to protect India’s interest against any possible misuse.

India has signed TKDL Access Agreements with: European Patent Office (Feb 2009); United State Patent & Trademark Office (Nov 2009) (with the sideline of the state visit of Prime Minister to United States); Indian patent Office (July 2009); Canadian Intellectual Property Office (Sep 2010); German Patent Office (Oct 2009); United Kingdom Patent Office (Feb 2010); Intellectual Property Australia (Jan 2011); and Japan Patent Office (April 2011).

TKDL Search And Retrieval Capabilities For Protection Of Traditional Knowledge

TKDL is one such database that has proven its efficacy and has succeeded in opposing hundreds of patent applications at various International Patent Offices through the route of filing third party observations which exists in most of the National Patent Laws of the countries, wherein a submission may be filed by any member of the public on state of art/prior art at the patent office questioning the novelty and non-obviousness of a patent application after the publication of the patent application and before the grant of patent. Challenging the patents at International Patent Offices is a long drawn process and is expensive. For example, Mexico, only after more than 10 years of legal battle, was able to get the patent on Enola bean at USPTO cancelled in July 2009.  Similarly, cancellation on Monsonto Soybean patent happened in July 2007 at EPO after 13 years of legal battle. India is the only country in the world which has set up an institutional mechanism (TKDL) to protect its Traditional Knowledge and is able to prevent grant of wrong patents. TKDL enables cancellation/withdrawal of wrong patent applications concerning India’s Traditional Knowledge at zero cost and in time period of few weeks. In sharp contrast, in the absence of TKDL it took 10 years (1995-2005) to get Neem patent invalidated for antifungal properties at EPO.

TKDL And Indian Systems of Medicine

TKDL is a proprietary and original database with a tool to understand the codified knowledge existing for the Indian Systems of Medicine including Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Yoga as prior art. Till date TKDL has transcribed 148 books of Ayurveda (93,280 formulations), 33 books of Unani (1, 33,470 formulations) and 137 books of Siddha (16, 764 formulations).

Recently, TKDL has taken up a big step for authenticating the origin of Yoga. TKDL has prepared patent formats for nearly 1150 yoga techniques to prevent yoga piracy by foreign companies involved in fitness related activities who claimed for copyrights and other forms of IP.

38 books of yoga in Sanskrit and Hindi language have been included in TKDL, like Patanjal-yoga-darshan, Hatharatnavali , Gherandasamhita, Hathapradipika, Kumbhaka Paddhati, Nathamuni’s Yoga Rahasya, Yogasana Vigyan etc. Till date about 1149 yoga techniques have been identified and out of these  about 300 techniques like Surya-namaskar, Padmasana, Matsyendrasana, Vajrasana, Mandukasana, Bhujangasana, Paschimottanasana, Shavasana, Nadi sodhan Pranayama, Bharamari Pranayama, Kapalbhati, Nauli, etc. have been videographed for inclusion in TKDL. It is expected that in near future TKDL (Yoga) would also become accessable to International Patent Offices.

Internationalization of TKDL

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) organized an International Conference, in cooperation with Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) on the “Utilization of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library as a Model for Protection of Traditional Knowledge” in New Delhi, India in March 2011. Representatives from 33 developing countries and major International Patent Offices that have TKDL Access Agreement with CSIR took part in the conference.

Impact of TKDL against bio-piracy

TKDL references as prior art have led to significant outcomes towards achieving the goal of preventing misappropriation of Indian Traditional Knowledge. Significant impact has already been realised during the last two years.  Beginning July 2009, TKDL team has submitted 571 prior art evidences out of which so far 88 patent applications of the pharma companies of United States, Great Britain, Japan, Spain, Italy, China, etc. have been either set aside or withdrawn/cancelled or declared as dead patent applications based on the information present in the TKDL database as depicted in the table given below:

Country wise Outcomes against Bio-Piracy

 

 

Country

 

No. of Cases of MNCs identified on Bio-Piracy where TKDL Prior art evidences submitted

 

 

Outcomes realised through Cancellation/Withdrawal

USA

148

17

United Kingdom

51

4

Germany

46

6

Italy

42

6

Japan

38

3

Australia

33

4

Others

213

12

Total

571

88

International Patent Office wise Outcomes against Bio-Piracy

 

Country

 

No. of Cases of MNCs identified on Bio-Piracy where TKDL Prior-art evidences submitted

 

Outcomes realised through Cancellation/Withdrawal

EPO

278

73

USPTO

93

4

IP Australia

33

2

CIPO

91

8

UKPTO

16

1

Others

60

-

Total

571

88

 

                                                                                                          

(PIB Feature)


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