India approved its first ever Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy with a vision to stimulate creativity and innovation and to promote advancement in science and technology, arts and culture, traditional knowledge and biodiversity resources.
The policy lays out seven broad objectives and they are as follows:
- Awareness: outreach and promotion;
- Generation of IPRs;
- Legal and legislative framework;
- Administration and management;
- Commercialization of IPR;
- Enforcement and adjudication; and
- Human capital development.
This article considers various provisions relating to traditional knowledge under the new IPR Policy. Traditional knowledge refers to the well-established long-standing practices and locally developed innovations preserved and utilized over centuries by communities.
The following positive considerations are provided with respect to traditional knowledge:
- The IPR Policy takes a systematic approach to achieve its objectives. In furtherance of which it first explores various means to create IPR Awareness, with respect to traditional knowledge. It specifically aims at creating public awareness relating to Geographical Indications, Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources, Traditional Cultural Expressions and Folklore by reaching out to IP generators and holders, more specifically in the rural and remote areas, with an aim to target small businesses, farmers/ plant variety users, holders of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and folklore, designers and artisans. It aims to shift how knowledge is viewed and valued. Makes efforts to transform knowledge into IP assets by exhorting monetization of knowledge which has never been the norm in India.
- The IPR Policy seeks to stimulate generation of IPRs, with respect to traditional knowledge specifically by emphasizing on conducting activities for promotion of traditional knowledge with participation of holders of such knowledge.
- The Policy also considers provisions to expand the ambit of Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) for its utilization in further R&D and expansion of the ambit of TKDL to include other fields besides Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani and Siddha for which it is currently restricted to. In addition to expansion of TKDL domain it also explores options for public research institutions to be allowed access to TKDL for further R&D, and makes room for exploring the options of providing access to TKDL for further R&D by private sector by placing necessary safeguards to prevent misappropriation.
- IPR policy provides for documentation of oral traditional knowledge and considers providing support and incentives for traditional knowledge holders for furthering the knowledge systems.
- While discussing the objectives for setting up strong and effective IPR laws, which balances the interests of rights owners with larger public interest, the policy reiterates India’s commitment to the Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. In furtherance of which it recognises India’s rich diverse form of traditional medicinal knowledge which includes well developed systems like Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa-Rigpa and Homeopathy. Further the policy also states the need to protect such knowledge, be it oral or in codified form, from misappropriation, while providing space and environment for dynamic development of traditional knowledge for benefit of mankind. To achieve this objective , the Policy lays emphasis on continued active and constructive engagement in the deliberations at various international forums to develop legally binding international instruments to protect Traditional Knowledge (TK), Genetic Resources (GR) and Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCE) and exploring of possibility to determine the appropriateness and extent of application of the existing laws to protect TK,GR and TCE, in addition to proposition of changes if required to them.
- The IPR Policy also seeks to modernize and strengthen service-oriented IPR administration lays emphasis on steps to include TKDL as a part of PCT minimum documentation.
- The Policy also considers establishing close cooperation between IPOs and creating a common web portal for ease of access to statutes, regulations, and guidelines and for better coordination.
- The Policy also considers establishing effective coordination between its office and National Biodiversity Authority to enable harmonious implementation of guidelines relating to grant of patents on inventions using biological resources and associated TK.
- Lastly, but most importantly the IPR Policy considers to strengthen the enforcement and adjudicatory mechanisms for combating IPR infringements and pursue incidents of misappropriation of TK, GR and TCE in other countries vigorously.
IPR policy is a positive move by the government towards building an effective IPR regime. Effective implementation of the Policy can achieve wonders and lay ground work for myriad medical and agricultural break-through based on the existing rich Traditional Knowledge and emancipation of Traditional Knowledge holders.
Authored by Bhuvana S. Babu