India to partner EU to prevent bio-piracy

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New Delhi, Feb 9 (ANI): India through an Access Agreement with the European Patent Office, has established a mechanism to protect India's traditional medicinal knowledge from bio-piracy.

The maiden Indian effort in creating 'Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) database would now be available to the Patent Examiners at European Patent Office (EPO having 34 member states) for establishing prior art, in case of patent applications based on Indian systems of medicine.

The accessibility of data base has come into operation from February 2.

Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Panabaka Lakshmi while giving the details of the agreement said that India is committed to mainstream Ayush and NRHM has seen co-locations of Ayush facilities at all levels.

This first such agreement would provide cover against infringement of country's rich traditional medicinal heritage having huge economic potential, of the kind that was witnessed during the last decade, including grant of wrong patents on wound healing properties of turmeric (1995) at the United States Patent and Trade Mark Office (USPTO) and on anti-fungal properties of Neem granted at European Patent Office (EPO).

Secretary, (Ayush) S. Jalaja said that it is a long process to document all the traditional knowledge in the medical field, however, with this kind of documentation we are in a position to forcefully protect our traditional knowledge.

Health Secretary Naresh Dayal said that such a huge enterprise is a team effort and this data base will go a long way in preventing mis-appropriation of traditional knowledge. DG (CSIR), Prof. Samir Brahmchari and project leader, Dr. V.K. Gupta gave the details of the project.

The grant of these patents in United States and Europe were the cause of great national distress, since, every Indian felt that the knowledge that belonged to India were wrongfully taken away from India.

Further, the patents would have conferred exclusive rights on the use of technology to the applicant of the patent in the country in which it has been granted.

The genesis of this maiden Indian effort dates back to the year 2000, when an interdisciplinary Task Force of experts was set up by AYUSH and CSIR, to devise a mechanism on protection of India's traditional knowledge.

The TKDL expert group estimated that about 2000 number of wrong patents concerning Indian systems of medicine were being granted every year at international level, mainly due to the fact that, India's traditional medicine knowledge exists in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu and Tamil, and was neither accessible nor understood by patent examiners at the international patent offices due to language and format barriers.

This international agreement is unique and would have long-term implications on the protection of traditional knowledge and global intellectual property systems as would be evident from the fact that in the past, patents have been granted at EPO on the use of over 285 medicinal plants due to the lack of access to the documented knowledge in public domain for the examiners of EPO. (ANI)

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