On 2nd February 2009, the Government of India signed an agreement with European Patent office (EPO) to access its Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL).This is indeed a major step in India’s efforts towards its efforts for authenticating the tremendous wealth in this area.
The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) has been created by National Institute of Science communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR), a CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research). It contains 24 million pages of Traditional Knowledge search database that translated text from Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu and Tamil to English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese. These traditional knowledge data are taken from Ayurveda (India’s traditional medical treatment), Unani (a system believed to have to come to India via ancient Greece), Siddha (one of India’s oldest health therapies from the south) and Yoga (considered as traditional medicine). India through TKDL is capable of protecting nearly 203,800 medical formulations as “public property” free for any one to use but no one to sell as “brand”.
This creation of a database is an evolutionary step to protect our traditional knowledge as well as for enhancing the negotiating strength of India at international forum. It can prevent multinational companies from unfair practice of commercializing traditional treatments. Several reports over the past few years, suggest that about 285 medicinal plants have been granted patents and about 200 to 500 such patents are granted every year due to lack of access to the documented knowledge in the public domain. With the signing of this agreement EPO can use TKDL during prior art search for all its patent applications. It is expected that as an immediate outcome through this signing, at least 40 patent applications in Europe are likely to get rejected, which would have otherwise granted.
TKDL is a model for other countries to protect their traditional knowledge from misappropriation. This is the time; we can hope it is end of bio-piracy and grant of patent based on traditional knowledge.
TKDL is created mainly for the traditional medicine system of our country. Similarly efforts must be made to develop databases for various other traditional knowledge in the field of agriculture, biodiversity, biosources used for food preparation, handicrafts etc. Several Governmental and non-governmental agencies are undertaking projects to documenting the local traditional knowledge. Much hope lies in finding several new databases in more facets of traditional knowledge in future.