Traditional Knowledge Digital Library
|Traditional Knowledge Digital Library|
|Website||TKDL official website|
Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is an Indian digital knowledge repository of the traditional knowledge, especially about medicinal plants and formulations used in Indian systems of medicine. Set up in 2001, as a collaboration between the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Department of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (Dept. of AYUSH), Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India, the objective of the library is to protect the ancient and traditional knowledge of the country from exploitation through bio-piracy and unethical patents, by documenting it electronically and classifying it as per international patent classification systems. Apart from that, the non-patent database also serves to foster modern research based on traditional knowledge, as its simplifies access to this vast knowledge, be it of traditional remedies, or practices.
As of 2010, it had transcribed 148 books on Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Yoga in public domain, into 34 million pages of information, translated into five languages — English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese. Data on 80,000 formulations in Ayurveda, 1,000,000 in Unani and 12,000 in Siddha had already been put in the TKDL. Plus it has also signed agreements with leading international patent offices such as European Patent Office (EPO), United Kingdom Trademark & Patent Office (UKPTO) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office to protect traditional knowledge from biopiracy, by giving patent examiners at International Patent Offices access to the TKDL database for patent search and examinations purposes.
The issue of biopiracy and unethical bioprospecting made headlines after Government of India successfully achieved revocation or limitation of turmeric and basmati rice patents granted by United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the neem patent granted by European Patent Office (EPO) in late 1990s. Soon cases of more such patent claims came into light and also the fact that India’s vast traditional medicine knowledge existed in languages like Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, and Tamil, making it inaccessible for patent examiners at the international patent offices to verify such claims. This experience prompted the Department of AYUSH, Government of India to create a task force of experts in the areas of traditional medicine systems of India, i.e. Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha as well as Yoga, patent examiners, IT experts, scientists and technical officers, for the creation Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), which was finally initiated in the year 2001. The task included, for example transcribing Sanskrit shlokas which describe an Ayurvedic formulation in text form, using Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC) devised for the purpose, so that it is easily understandable to any patent examiner, anywhere in the world. For this reason, the entire text, all 34 million pages of it, is available in five languages: English, German, French, Spanish and Japanese.
As the database project reached its completion, the government in 2006 decided to allow access to the library to international patent offices, including European Patent Office (EPO), Japan and the UK, subject to a non-disclosure clause. This allowed patent examiners to evaluate patent applications and stop attempts to patent traditional knowledge as "new" inventions. Subsequently, agreements were signed with European Patent Office (EPO) in February 2009, with United Kingdom Trademark & Patent Office (UKPTO) in January 2010, apart from an agreement with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) after the Summit meeting between US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, also in January 2010. With patent examiner getting access to TKDL database, legal cases regarding unethical patent claims, which in the past have taken years and vast expenditure for bringing each case to fruition, could be avoided.
Another project to include data relating to 1,500 postures in yoga began in 2008, after new reports of a large number of false gurus and yoga masters, who attempted to patent in their country this ancient knowledge, for example 131 yoga-related patents were traced in the US alone in 2007, and after uproar in the parliament and media, Government of India took up the issue with USPTO. Thereafter, a team of yoga gurus from nine schools working with government officials and 200 scientists from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) scanned 35 ancient texts including the Hindu epics, the Mahabharata and the Bhagwad Gita, and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras to register each native pose, and end 2009, 1500 asanas were to be added.
In 2010, Union Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh stated that over a period of eight years on 34 million pages of information have been collected at an estimated cost of Rs 7 crore, further at least 36 cases had been identified by the EPO and 40 cases by USPTO, using TKDL. As a future project, a people’s Register of Biodiversity, is also being set up by the government, to document and protect, traditional knowledge passed down through the oral tradition, under India’s National Biodiversity Act of 2002.
Some IPR-experts have expressed concern  over sharing TKDL in the form of 'prior art' with foreign patent offices, as this action would undermine its confidentiality according to them. 'Prior art' definition covers everything that has been published, presented or otherwise disclosed to public anywhere in the world on the date of patent and includes documents in foreign languages. But knowledge that is not 'prior art' cannot be used to invalidate patents.
- Traditional Knowledge Digital Library AYUSH.
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