Indian Database Protects Traditional Knowledge from Patent and Copyright Profiteers

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India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), which is run by the country’s government, was founded last year to combat the worrisome trend of (primarily Western) countries and individuals trying to cash in on traditional knowledge using patents and copyrights, which would make it.

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In particular, the TKDL is focused on “bio-piracy,” which consists of pharmaceutical and other private companies trying to appropriate “elements of [the] collective knowledge of societies into proprietary knowledge for the commercial profit of a few,” and what it calls “yoga theft,” or companies’ attempts to make ancient yogic postures and exercises their own intellectual property.

How does the TKDL do this? By staking out what’s already been done with over 34 million pages of documentation in multiple languages.

From a Washington Post article on the TKDL’s battle against yoga theft:

The library has documented other traditional Indian knowledge, including ayurvedic treatments and homeopathy. Tens of thousands of yoga postures have been compiled, but many are not widely practiced.

“This collection is very successful in preventing wrong patent information, but it is available in 34 million pages,” Gupta said with a chuckle. “We are trying to shorten the yoga catalogue to make it very easy for the world to understand.”

The poses, now listed in Sanskrit, will be translated into English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese. Gupta’s library has agreements with U.S. and European patent offices, and Gupta said he hopes that U.S. patent officers will refer yoga studios directly to his information.

Before the TKDL became an online database, one of India’s top scientific bodies was busy doing similar work: In the ’90s, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research fended off US scientists’ attempts to patent the use of turmeric in wound healing, which the CSIR proved had been known and documented for thousands of years.

(Washington Post via Marginal Revolution | TKDL main page. title image via Shutterstock.)


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