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India seeks global checks on patenting neem, yoga

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BUENOS AIRES: The government on Wednesday moved in to check patenting of products using genetic resources such as neem, haldi, aamla or even bhaang, as well as illegal rights over traditional knowledge such as yoga and ayurveda.

In a late night move, India circulated a paper at the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) ministerial meeting to make it mandatory for anyone seeking to patent a product or process that uses genetic resources and traditional knowledge, an issue on which there has been discussed in the past but has not moved due to opposition from the US, Australia and Japan. There had been discussions on the issue in 2008 and 2011 but those against the move had blocked it.

On the other hand, several other countries such Mexico, which have a rich heritage, have argued for checks on patenting of traditional knowledge and genetic resources.

“We have suggested a work programme on this as 106 countries had agreed to this earlier,” said a government official. The move comes at a time when countries led by the European Union are seeking to enhance discussions on having a global framework on e-commerce and India is looking to link the talks at WTO with its demand for protection of its traditional knowledge.

The issue is also being discussed at the World Intellectual Property Rights Organization (WIPO) but WTO is seen to be a bigger platform.

In recent years, there have been several instances of products such as neem being patented, resulting in expensive legal battles which have been long drawn. While yoga per se cannot be patented, there have been attempts to patent asanas or their variations.

In 2005, it was estimated that over 2,000 wrong patents involving Indian systems of medicine had been granted, resulting in the establishment of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, a database containing

“So far about 200 patent applications of pharmaceutical companies of US, 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 have either been set aside/ withdrawn/ amended, based on the prior art evidences present in the TKDL database without any cost and in few weeks/months of time… Similar outcome is expected in about 1200 more cases, where TKDL has filed pre-grant opposition,” the TKDL website said.

Updated: December 13, 2017 — 7:41 pm

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