The misappropriation of traditional knowledge through the mistaken issuance of patents has been a growing concern with the rise of the global economy and the increasing importance of intellectual property. A few high profile cases brought significant attention to this matter, prompting efforts by a number of countries to create digital traditional knowledge databases accessible to patent examiners around the world.
Recently, the Commerce Department’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced in this press release that the Government of India has granted the agency’s patent examiners access to a new digital database containing a compilation of traditional Indian knowledge. Access to the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) is important for both India and the United States to prevent misappropriation of traditional knowledge.
The new database, developed jointly by India’s Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH), includes over 200,000 traditional medicine formulations on Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha comprising 30 million pages. The TKDL contains text-searchable English-language translations of these sources, permitting USPTO examiners to search thousands of years of India’s accumulated traditional knowledge. The TKDL also contains translations into French, German, Japanese and Spanish, from these sources, originally written in Hindi, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and Urdu.
This database will be an important addition to the growing array of search tools on traditional knowledge from around the world that is already available to USPTO examiners. These tools include dictionaries, formularies, handbooks, and historical or classical works, as well as databases such as the TKDL. USPTO examiners use these tools to help prevent the patenting, and thereby misappropriation, of existing traditional knowledge.