The Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is a pioneering initiative of India, under the joint collaboration of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy (AYUSH), to prevent exploitation and to protect Indian traditional knowledge at Patent Offices worldwide. Traditional Knowledge (TK) is a valuable yet vulnerable asset to indigenous and local communities who depend on TK for their livelihood. To elucidate, the healthcare needs of more than 70% population and livelihood of millions of people in India is dependent on traditional medicine. Globally too there has been renewed attention and interest in the use of traditional medicine increasing its vulnerability to exploitation. The grant of a US patent to wound healing properties of turmeric flagged the danger of complacence in proactively guarding the traditional knowledge. The time, effort and money spent on revocation of turmeric patent at USPTO highlighted the need for putting in place a proactive mechanism for TK protection. The problem related to Indian TK is further compounded by the fact that India’s traditional medicinal knowledge exists in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu, Tamil, and several others and often in ancient local dialects that are no longer in practice. Thus, the Indian TK even when documented is neither accessible nor understood by patent examiners at patent offices worldwide.

Traditional Knowledge Digital Library was conceptualized to overcome the language and format barrier by systematically and scientifically converting and structuring the available contents of the ancient texts – currently focussed on Indian Systems of Medicines i.e. Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Sowa Rigpa as well as Yoga practices - into five international languages, namely, English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish, with the help of information technology tools and an innovative classification system - Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC). As on date, more than 4.24 lakh formulations/ practices have been transcribed into the TKDL database.

TKRC has structured and classified the Indian TK into several thousand subgroups for Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Yoga related terminology while correlating the same with modern terminology. The recognition of this unique classification -TKRC - enabled incorporation of about 200 sub-groups under A61K 36/00 in International Patent Classification instead of few sub-groups earlier available on medicinal plants under A61K 35/00, thus enhancing the quality of search and examination of prior art with respect to patent applications field in the area of traditional knowledge.

TKDL has also set international specifications and standards for setting up of TK databases based on TKDL specifications. This was adopted in 2003 by the Committee in fifth session of the Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Expression of folklore.

TKDL technology integrates diverse disciplines such as Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Yoga, and languages such as Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Tamil, English, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, and traditional knowledge with modern science & modern medicine. Currently, TKDL contains information from books of Indian Systems of Medicine, which are available in open domain and can be sourced by any individual/organization at national/ international level. TKDL is an innovative tool that acts as a bridge between these books (prior art) and patent examiners.

At present, as per the approval of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, access of TKDL is available to fifteen Patent Offices (European Patent Office, United State Patent & Trademark Office, Japan Patent Office, United Kingdom Patent Office, Canadian Intellectual Property Office, German Patent Office, Intellectual Property Australia, Indian Patent Office, Chile Patent Office, Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia, Rospatent- Intellectual Property Office of Russia, Peru Patent Office, Spanish Patent and Trademark Office) and Danish Patent and Trademark Office, National Industrial Property Institute, France), under TKDL Access (Non-disclosure) Agreement. As per the terms and conditions of the Access agreement, examiners of patent office can utilize TKDL for search and examination purposes only and cannot reveal the contents of TKDL to any third party unless it is necessary for the purpose of citation. TKDL Access Agreement is unique in nature and has in-built safeguards on non-disclosure to protect India’s interest against any possible misuse.

In addition, pre-grant oppositions and third party observations are filed at various Patent Offices globally, along with prior-art evidences from TKDL. Significant impact has already been realized. So far, 271 patent applications have either been set aside/ withdrawn/ amended, based on the prior art evidences present in the TKDL database with minimal costs and without expending undue time and effort. This is noteworthy considering APEDA had to spend about seven crores towards only legal fee for getting few claims of Basmati rice patent revoked.

TKDL is the first of its kind prior-art database of traditional knowledge globally, and has proven to be an effective deterrent against bio-piracy. While being recognized internationally as a unique effort, TKDL has set a benchmark in TK protection around the world, by demonstrating the advantages of proactive action and the power of strong deterrence. Focus is on deterrence and in preventing the erroneous grant of patents by ensuring access to TK related prior art for patent examiners without restricting the use of traditional knowledge.

For further query on TKDL and Access Agreement (for Patent Offices), contact:
Head, CSIR-Traditional Knowledge Digital Library Unit (email: