Putting a stop to patent exploitation of traditional knowledge

After years of American and European companies exploiting and patenting traditional remedies and herbs, India has hit on a scheme for protecting the the indigenous patents.

After years of American and European companies exploiting and patenting traditional remedies and herbs, India has hit on a scheme for protecting the the indigenous patents. A mammoth database documenting a wide range of traditional knowledge, and other major developing nations are most interested. This AP story explains:

For thousands of years Indian villagers have used an extract from seeds of the neem tree as an insecticide. So when a U.S. company patented a process for producing the substance in 1994, India reacted with outrage.

After spending millions of dollars in legal fees to successfully overturn the patent, India's government now is creating a 30-million-page database of traditional knowledge to fend off entrepreneurs trying to patent the country's ancient lore.

The database project already has caught the interest of others. A South African team recently visited and a Mongolian mission is coming in January, said V.K. Gupta, chairman of India's National Institute for Science Communication and Information Resources.

The database, called the Traditional Knowledge Data Library, will make information available to patent offices around the world to ensure that traditional remedies are not presented as new discoveries.

``If societies have been using it for centuries why should it be patented?'' asked Shiv Basant, a senior official at the Health Ministry's Department of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, India's traditional health and medical disciplines.

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