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PROTECTING TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE FROM INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY



  May 20, 2024

PROTECTING TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE FROM INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY EXPLOITATION



WHAT IS THE ISSUE WITH CURRENT INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY (IP) LAWS?

Current IP laws often fail to protect traditional knowledge and cultural heritage, allowing companies from developed nations to patent products based on knowledge that has been part of traditional practices in developing countries for centuries. This practice is known as biopiracy.

WHY IS TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE VULNERABLE?

Traditional knowledge, often passed down orally through generations, does not fit neatly into existing IP frameworks like patents or copyrights, which typically protect single inventors for a limited time. Traditional knowledge is communal and has evolved over long periods, making it difficult to attribute to a specific person or community.

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF BIODIVERSITY AND KNOWLEDGE EXPLOITATION?

When patents are granted to third parties for traditional knowledge, the originating communities or countries lose their heritage and control over their own traditional knowledge. This can result in these communities having to pay for medicines or products derived from their own knowledge.

HOW DOES THE NEW UN PACT AIM TO ADDRESS THESE ISSUES?

The new UN pact, set to be discussed by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in May 2024, aims to create greater protections for genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. The pact includes:

- Disclosure Requirements: Patent applicants must disclose the source of genetic resources or traditional knowledge and confirm permission to use it.

- Databases: Establishing databases like India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) to record traditional knowledge and assist patent officers in verifying the originality of patent applications.

WHAT IS THE ROLE OF INDIA'S TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE DIGITAL LIBRARY (TKDL)?

India’s TKDL documents traditional knowledge from ancient texts, such as those related to Ayurveda, Unani medicine, and yoga practices. This helps prevent the unauthorized patenting of traditional knowledge by providing a reference for patent officers.

WHAT ARE THE EXPECTED OUTCOMES OF THE NEW AGREEMENT?

If the new agreement is passed:

- Increased Accountability: Companies would need to disclose the origin of the traditional knowledge or genetic resources they use.

- Financial Compensation: Stronger disclosure laws could lead to better enforcement of existing laws that require financial benefits from inventions to be shared with the country of origin.

- Preservation of Heritage: Developing countries could better protect their traditional knowledge and cultural heritage from exploitation.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES?

For developing countries, this pact represents a significant step forward in protecting their biodiversity and traditional knowledge. It addresses long-standing concerns about biopiracy and aims to ensure fair compensation and recognition for the use of their genetic resources and traditional practices.

WAY AHEAD

The next steps involve:

- Ratifying the new agreement at the WIPO meeting in May 2024.

- Developing clear definitions for traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.

- Establishing comprehensive databases to track and protect traditional knowledge.

CONCLUSION

The proposed UN pact is a crucial development in the fight against biopiracy. By ensuring that traditional knowledge is respected and protected under IP laws, developing countries can safeguard their cultural heritage and receive fair compensation for their contributions to global knowledge.


SRIRAM’s


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