TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE DIGITAL LIBRARY (TKDL)
Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is a pioneering initiative of India to prevent misappropriation of country’s traditional medicinal knowledge at International Patent Offices on which healthcare needs of more than 70% population and livelihood of millions of people in India is dependent. Its genesis dates back to the Indian effort on revocation of the patent on wound healing properties of turmeric at the USPTO. Besides, in 2005, the TKDL expert group estimated that about 2000 wrong patents concerning Indian systems of medicine were being granted every year at international level, mainly due to the fact that India’s traditional medicinal knowledge which exists in local languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu, Tamil etc. is neither accessible nor comprehensible for patent examiners at the international patent offices.
Traditional Knowledge Digital Library has overcome the language and format barrier by scientifically converting and structuring the available contents (till date 0.29 million medicinal formulations) of the ancient texts on Indian Systems of Medicines i.e. Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Yoga, 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).
TKRC has structured and classified the Indian Traditional Medicine System in approximately 25,000 subgroups for Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Yoga. TKRC has 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 been able to 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 WIPO on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Expression of folklore.
TKDL technology integrates diverse disciplines and languages such as Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Yoga, Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Tamil, English, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, modern science & modern medicine. Till date, TKDL is based on 359 books of Indian Systems of Medicine, which are available at a cost of approx US$ 1000, in open domain and can be sourced by any individual/organization at national/international level. TKDL acts as a bridge between these books (Prior-art) and International patent examiners. It is the TKDL technology which has created a unique mechanism for a Sanskrit verse to be read in languages like German, Japanese, English, Spanish and French by an examiner at any International Patent Office on his computer screen.
At present, as per the approval of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, access of TKDL is available to nine International 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 and Chile Patent Office), under TKDL Access (Non-disclosure) Agreement. Negotiations are underway to conclude the Access Agreement with the Intellectual Property Office of Russia and Malaysia. As per the terms and conditions of the Access agreement, examiners of patent office can utilize TKDL for search and examination purposes only and can not 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 are being filed at various International Patent Offices, along with prior-art evidences from TKDL. Significant impact has already been realized. So far about 200 patent applications of the pharmaceutical companies of United States, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, China etc. have either been set aside/ withdrawn/ amended, based on the Prior art evidences present in the TKDL database without any cost and in few weeks/months of time, whereas APEDA had to spend about seven crore towards legal fee only for getting few claims of Basmati rice patent revoked. A similar outcome is expected in about 1200 more cases, where TKDL has filed pre-grant opposition.
TKDL is proving to be an effective deterrent against biopiracy and is being recognized as a global leader in the area of traditional knowledge protection. In 2011, an International Conference was organized by World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in collaboration with CSIR on ‘Utilization of Traditional Knowledge Digital Library as a Model for Protection of Traditional Knowledge’, at New Delhi. Pursuant to this, WIPO in collaboration with CSIR and DIPP (Ministry of Commerce and Industry) organized an ‘International Study Visit To TKDL’ for 19 countries interested in replication of TKDL.
TKDL has made waves around the world, particularly in TK-rich countries by demonstrating the advantages of proactive action and the power of strong deterrence. The idea is not to restrict the use of traditional knowledge, but to ensure that wrong patents are not granted due to lack of access to the prior art for Patent examiners.
For entering into TKDL Access Agreement by a Patent Office, Dr. Rakesh Tiwari, Head, CSIR Traditional Knowledge Digital Library Unit (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) may be contacted.