What is IPR?

 Intellectual property (IP) is a term referring to a number of distinct types of creations of the mind for which a set of exclusive rights are recognized—and the corresponding fields of law. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works; discoveries and inventions; and words, phrases, symbols, and designs. Common types of intellectual property include copyrights, trademarks, patents, industrial design rights and trade secrets in some jurisdictions. (Source: Wikipedia)

 What is TK?

Traditional knowledge (TK), indigenous knowledge (IK), traditional environmental knowledge (TEK) and local knowledge generally refer to the long-standing traditions and practices of certain regional, indigenous, or local communities. Traditional knowledge also encompasses the wisdom, knowledge, and teachings of these communities. In many cases, traditional knowledge has been orally passed for generations from person to person. Some forms of traditional knowledge are expressed through stories, legends, folklore, rituals, songs, and even laws. (Source: Wikipedia)

 What is Convention on Biodiversity (CBD)

 The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is an international legally binding treaty. The Convention has three main goals:

    1. Conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity);

   2. Sustainable use of its components; and

   3. Fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources

 In other words, its objective is to develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. It is often seen as the key document regarding sustainable development. The Convention was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1992 and entered into force on 29 December 1993.

 2010 was the International Year of Biodiversity. The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity is the focal point for the International Year of Biodiversity. At the 2010 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in October in Nagoya, Japan, the Nagoya Protocol was adopted. On 22 December 2010, the UN declared the period from 2011 to 2020 as the UN-Decade on Biodiversity. They, hence, followed a recommendation of the CBD signatories during COP10 at Nagoya in October 2010. (Source: Wikipedia)

 Indian Context

 India is a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which came into force on 29 December 1993. It has three main objectives, namely, the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components and fair and Fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.

 As Indian activist and scientist, Vandana Shiva and others have shown in countless work, indigenous people often have their cultures and lifestyle structured in a way that works with nature and would not undermine their own resource base. For example, in her book Stolen Harvests (South End Press, 2000) she describes how their traditional knowledge has been beneficial to the environment and has been developed and geared towards this understanding and respect of the ecosystems around them.

 TRIPS, Biodiversity And Patent Issues:

 TRIPS, Biodiversity and Patent Issues In the recent past, there have been several cases of bio-piracy of TK from India. First it was the patent on wound healing properties of haldi (turmeric); Now patents have been obtained in other countries on hypoglycaemic properties of karela (bitter gourd), brinjal (egg plant), etc. An important criticism in this context relates to foreigners obtaining patents based on Indian biological materials. There is also the view that the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Agreement is aiding the exploitation of biodiversity by privatizing biodiversity expressed in life forms and knowledge.(Source: Dr.Vinod Khanna Zoological Survey of India Dehra Dun).


 Biopiracy is a situation where indigenous knowledge of nature is exploited for commercial gain with no compensation to the indigenous people themselves. Detractors of utilization of natural knowledge such as Greenpeace claim these practices contribute to inequality between developing countries rich in biodiversity, and developed countries hosting companies, which engage in biopiracy.(Source: Wikipedia)

 The ethical debate has sparked a new branch of international patent and trade law. Bio-prospecting contracts lay down the rules, between researchers and countries, of benefit sharing and can bring royalties to lesser-developed countries.

 However, the fairness of these contracts has been a subject of debate. Unethical bio-prospecting contracts (as distinct from ethical ones) can be viewed as a new form of biopiracy.

 Initiatives in India to protect IPR and TK

 India has been making efforts to conserve biodiversity and to counter the problem of biopiracy.  The following acts have been in force at present:

 (a) The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Right Act 2001.

(b) The Biological Diversity Act 2002

(c) The Patents Amendment Act 2005.

 Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, India

 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 it 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.(Source: Wikipedia)

Present Status (March 2011) (Source: TKDL, India)

Present status of transcription of the traditional medicine formulation in the Traditional knowledge Digital Library is given in the following table :


No. of texts (including volumes) used for transcription



75 books



10 books



50 books



15 books



150 books



Indigenous Communities

Indigenous Communities in the Western Ghats live in mountain areas that are biologically rich. We have forgotten the important role they play in biodiversity conservation. Tribal communities have traditionally depended on the mountain biodiversity of the area for their survival. Today, their cultural identity is lost.The younger generation in various tribal communities have forgotten their ancient roots. Indigenous communities have lost their control over mountain land. They were the natural guardians of natural resources a century ago.  FRSD was active in conducting research on invasive alien species and other threats to mountain ecosystems as natural heritage areas in the past.Tribal communities revealed the threats to mountain regions due to global change and climate variations. FRSD continues to protect the natural resources in the Western Ghats with the help of indigenous communities.  FRSD is also eager to document the ancestral and biological heritage of tribal communities. 

Geographical Indications

Geographical Indications of Goods are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refer to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country or place of origin of that product. Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country.  Under Articles 1 (2) and 10 of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, geographical indications are covered as an element of IPRs. They are also covered under Articles 22 to 24 of the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)  Agreement, which was part of the Agreements concluding the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations.India, as a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), enacted the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration & Protection)Act, 1999 has come into force with effect from 15th September 2003. Examples of GI in Tamilnadu: Madurai Jasmine, Tanjore Veena, Bhavani Jamukkalam, Salem Mango, Kanjeepuram Silk, Bodi Cardamom etc.