Traditional Knowledge Digital Library

India’s anti bio-piracy initiative has garnered a lot of press recently. Here is the BBC:

In a quiet government office in the Indian capital, Delhi, some 100 doctors are hunched over computers poring over ancient medical texts and keying in information.

… The ambitious $2m project, christened Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, will roll out an encyclopaedia of the country’s traditional medicine in five languages – English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish – in an effort to stop people from claiming them as their own and patenting them.

You can access a demo of the TKDL here, but I think you need to work at a patent office to register. The concept of bio-piracy is explained in detail on this page, along with several examples. Here is the BBC’s summary:

In 1995, the US Patent Office granted a patent on the wound-healing properties of turmeric.

Indian scientists protested and fought a two-year-long legal battle to get the patent revoked.

Last year, India won a 10-year-long battle at the European Patent Office against a patent granted on an anti-fungal product, derived from neem, by successfully arguing that the medicinal neem tree is part of traditional Indian knowledge.

In 1998 the US Patent Office granted patent to a local company for new strains of rice similar to basmati, which has been grown for centuries in the Himalayan foothills of north-west India and Pakistan and has become popular internationally. After a prolonged legal battle, the patent was revoked four years ago.

And, in the US, an expatriate Indian yoga teacher has claimed copyright on a sequence of 36 yoga asanas, or postures. [I think they are referring to this.]

There is more information about bio-piracy on the Who Owns Native Culture website.

It would have been nice if they’d entered all this information into a more user friendly and accessible format, like a wiki, rather than a database for corporate lawyers, but perhaps that can be done later.