Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), India signed the TKDL (Traditional Knowledge Digital Library) Access Agreement with the Japan Patent Office (JPO) here today. This TKDL Access Agreement would help prevent misappropriation of India’s traditional knowledge at JPO. It also successfully concludes the arrangement of protection of India’s traditional knowledge with ‘trilateral offices’ like United States Patent & Trademark Office, European Patent Office and Japan Patent Office. This is considered significant as most of the international patent applications get filed at least in one of these trilateral offices. Rejection of a patent application at any one of these offices would facilitate its rejection at any other International Patent Office.
TKDL Access Agreement has in-built safeguards on non-disclosure to protect India’s interest against any possible misuse. Under the agreement, the patent examiners at International Patent Offices can utilize TKDL for patent search and examination purpose only and cannot reveal the content to any third party unless it is necessary for citation purpose.
Significant impact has already been realized at EPO, beginning July 2009, wherein TKDL team identified 224 patent applications at EPO which concern Indian systems of medicine and third party TKDL evidences filed at EPO. In two such cases, EPO has already set aside its earlier intention to grant patents after it received TKDL evidence. In the other 33 cases, applicants themselves decided to withdraw their four-to-five year old applications on being confronted with TKDL evidence. It is expected that in the remaining cases also, either EPO would reject these applications or applicants themselves would withdraw their wrong claims/patent applications unless they are able to establish the novelty of their claims/applications.
A recent study carried out by TKDL expert team has revealed a sharp decline (44%) on filing of patent applications concerning Indian systems of medicine at EPO in particular on generic group concerning medicinal plant preparation. Normally, on an average, 80 such patent applications are being filed every year at EPO. About 25 get filed during October-December and 15-40 patents get granted yearly during this period. In contrast, during October-December 2009 only 14 applications got filed and no wrong patent was granted
Misappropriation and bio-piracy are the issues of great concern for 130 developing countries and this agenda is being pursued at multilateral forums such as Convention on Biological Diversity, TRIPs Council at World Trade Organization and at World Intellectual Property Organization. However, so far there has been no consensus on ensuring protection of traditional knowledge. It is for this reason, Mexico, only after more than 10 years of legal battle, was able to get the patent on Enola bean at USPTO cancelled in July 2009. Similarly, cancellation on Monsonto Soybean patent happened in July 2007 at EPO but after 13 years of legal battle. India is the only country in the world which has set up an institutional mechanism (TKDL) and is able to prevent grant of wrong patents in only a few weeks through an e-mail and at zero cost, whereas other countries need to fight for 10-12 years and have to spend millions of US dollars to meet legal and other expenses even for opposing a single patent.
TKDL, a collaborative project between CSIR and Department of AYUSH, is a maiden Indian effort to help prevent misappropriation of traditional knowledge belonging to India at International Patent Offices. It has scientifically converted and structured the India’s traditional knowledge available in 148 ancient books on Indian Systems of Medicine, into five international languages, namely, English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish (30 million A4 size pages), with the help of IT tools and a novel classification system, namely, Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC). Today, India through TKDL is capable of protecting about 2 lakh (0.226 million) medical formulations similar to those of neem and turmeric. On an average, it takes five to seven years for opposing a granted patent at international level which may cost Rs 1-3 crore (0.2-0.6 million US$). One could only imagine the cost of protecting 2 lakh (0.2 million US$) medicinal formulations in the absence of TKDL!
The TKDL technology has created a unique mechanism for a Sanskrit sloka to be read in German/ Japanese/English/French/Spanish, by an examiner at EPO or any other International Patent Offices on a computer screen.
These unique international TKDL Access Agreements would have long-term implications on the protection of traditional knowledge and global intellectual property systems in view of the fact that in the past, patents have been granted at EPO and USPTO on the use of over 200 medicinal plants due to the lack of access to the documented knowledge in public domain. Also, at any point in time, 40-50 patent applications based on Indian traditional knowledge are awaiting grant of patent.
Earlier India has signed such Agreement earlier with several other International Patent Offices, like United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO), European Patent Office (EPO), German Patent Office, Patent Office of Australia, Canada Patent Office (CIPO) and United Kingdom Trademark & Patent Office (UKPTO), during the last two years. The agreement signed with EPO in particular has resulted into remarkable success in preventing bio-piracy of Indian traditional knowledge at EPO.