Intellectual Property Primer

a lex-warrier initiative

Need for protecting traditional knowledge

Generally speaking traditional knowledge is the knowledge systems embedded in the cultural traditions of regional, indigenous, or local communities. Therefore, it is also called as indigenous knowledge or local knowledge. It is considered as a part of the collective ownership of the community and is transmitted across generations through traditional ways.We can find the traditional knowledge in wide variety of context such as; Agricultural, Biodiversity – related knowledge, Ecological, Medicinal knowledge, Scientific, and Technical knowledge.

Characteristics of traditional knowledge

Traditional knowledge encompasses much more than the Western intellectual property regime, such as ‘beliefs, knowledge, practices, innovations, arts, spirituality, and other forms of cultural experience and expression’ rather than Western tendencies toward protecting scientific, technological, artistic, and literary innovation through hard line tests of patent, copyright, and trademark law.

Indigenous knowledge is developed over time and used to sustain a community. Experience, culture, environment, local resources, animal knowledge, or plant resources might have necessary impact on developing such knowledge. Local communities expand such knowledge over the years and develop new innovative practices to inspirethe growth in farming and medical field.

In other words, local knowledge is nothing but a cumulative body of knowledge, know-how, practices and representations maintained and developed by indigenous peoples with extended histories of interaction with the natural environment.

Traditional knowledge has been passed for years orally from generations to generations. The inventions based on the traditional knowledge can be protected either as a patent, trademark or a geographical indication. However, such traditional or indigenous knowledge, which was the basis for such invention, are not generally protected under the conventional forms of intellectual property rights.

Significance of traditional knowledge has been developed drastically in the recent years in view of its increasing values in the field of biotechnology and herbal. It is difficult for assessing the value of the products derived through the research carried out based on the indigenous knowledge. Hence, in consideration of the growing significance of the traditional knowledge in the economy as well as health sector, protection of the indigenous knowledge is a necessity and, a part of the value created by protecting the local knowledge shall be transferred back to the actual authors (indigenous people) of such knowledge.

Traditional Knowledge – Protective measures

All the member states of the Convention on Biological Diversity are expected to respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity and promote their wider application with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge, innovations and practices and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of such knowledge, innovations and practices under Article 8(j).

Similarly, Article 27. 3(b) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement) sets out certain conditions under which certain biological materials or intellectual innovations may be excluded from patenting. Government of India has done an appreciating effort to setup a repository in the digital form called the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL). Said digital library of indigenous knowledge is having more than 1200 medical formulations from Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani. Library also contains more than 1500 Yoga postures. Interestingly, translated version of the library is available in English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese languages.