India’s Digital Library model gains Global traction!


India has already woken up to the task of protecting her traditional knowledge available in the public domain by digitizing its resourceful content, so that nobody can claim patent on them, through ‘Traditional Knowledge Digital Library’ (TKDL), a collaborative project between CSIR and Department of AYUSH.

Usually, I am quite vocal about the misdeeds of our government organizations and employees. But, this is one such initiative where Indians can really feel proud of the government’s achievement; something which even other nations are looking forward to emulate India’s footsteps.

India has around 5000 years of history during which period many great personalities and even common people have mastered the knowledge in various fields such as medicine, mathematics, naturopathy, meditation and yoga, science, etc.


The West has time-and-again tried to patent and misappropriate knowledge of basic things which are part of our society for almost hundreds and thousands of years. The most undesirable of them was the US Patent and Trademark Office granting patent rights on Basmati rice and grains to RiceTec, based on the firm’s false claim of having invented traits of rice lines and plants, which are characteristics found in our traditional Basmati varieties.

For Basmati rice which is prominently grown in North India and Pakistan, the patent grant to RiceTec meant that no Indian or Pakistani company could sell original Basmati rice without coming into conflict with that company. It took years for India and Pakistan to fight against that patent and get it struck down from its core claims.

Further, a report points out that India has also made available a database describing 1300 yoga postures and videography of 200 popular among these, to international patent offices through TKDL, as part of efforts to prevent patent pirates from exploiting it for commercial purposes.

Thus, a TKDL-like model plays a crucial role in documenting precious national heritage in the areas of traditional health care systems, preventing bio-piracy and grant of wrong patents at the International Patent offices – creating an enabling model that could prevent misappropriation of traditional knowledge and global intellectual property systems.

In latest, representatives of over 35 countries have expressed interest in replicating India’s TKDL model for preventing misappropriation of knowledge and cultural heritage from grant of wrongful patents by any of the trilateral offices, where most of the international patent applications gets filed, like US Patent and Trademark Office, European Patent Office and Japan Patent Office.

Moreover, a TKDL study also reveals a sharp decline of 44% on filing of patent applications concerning Indian systems of medicine at European Patent Office.

  1. Altaf Rahman says

    @ Viral,

    A nice article. I am relieved that atleast some of our govt organizations are working towards the end of protecting national interests. Really praiseworthy effort.

    Incidentally some time back a programme was aired on National Goegraphic or Discovery. There is a rampant exploitation of US companies in the Jungles of Amazon. The modus operandi is somethng like this :
    The pharma companies hire the services of some professionals who venture deep into the jungles of Amazon. They meet remote jungle people who lived there for thousands of years. For them if some one from developed society visits their hamlets and shows interest in their way of life, they feel proud and in their eagerness to show their knowledge of the jungles, they let the explorers stay there. Soon the professionals will learn how the wild people survive in harsh environment, how they hunt, what herbs they use if they get sick, what rituals they follow. They record every aspect of their lives. The R&D people in the US cities analyze them and if there is some thing of interest to them, they ask the professionals to follow that trail. The professionals collect the herbs, seeds, plants and send them to the labs in cities. The scientists there extract the genes from the plants and patent the medicines. some of the most common medicines for stomuck pain, head ache, cold, fever, blod loss due to injuries, pregnency related problems are cured for thousands of years by natives using plants. They know that the plants are useful but they dont know which substances are helping them. The companies now patent the medicines and make billions. The natives dont even know how they are exploited. Later due to the efforts of some organizations and pressure on govts, the govts made some rules, where the natives should benifit in some way by the money the companies are making.

    I feel that if those govts in South America (for that matter, every country) should make effort to record their national treasure (knowledge of the resources by their natives), no one can exploit them. If some forign company want to benifit by the knowledge, the proper department which has authority should be contacted, and all acitvities recorded and if the companies benifit from the knowledge, the community from which the knowledge is gained should get royalty.

    Just my two paisa :)

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