India wants traditional medicine systems in public domain

by GRAIN | 13 Oct 1998
TITLE: Asian Regional Seminar on IPR Issues PUBLICATION: Official Press Releases, GOI DATE: 7 October 1998 SOURCE: Government of India URL:


The first-ever Asian Regional Seminar on Intellectual Property Rights Issues in the field of Traditional Medicines was inaugurated here today by Shri Dalit Ezhimalai, Union Minister of State for Health & Family Welfare.

The Minister said that there is a common concern among Asian countries with reference to piracy of their National Heritage pertaining to Traditional Systems of Medicine (TSM) whether they are codified or otherwise. Moreover, a large number of patents have been filed and granted especially in developed countries.

In India, the Minister said, about 70% of the health care in rural areas is being provided through traditional systems. He also stressed the need to document oral traditions besides redocumenting the existing codified knowledge in a language which is acceptable and understandable internationally. After codification of documented as well as undocumented knowledge systems, inter-country exchange of this information is necessary to bring it to the Public Domain. As per the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement anything which falls under the public domain, automatically becomes non-patentable. This would serve as a caveat for providing protection from the patents to existing Traditional Systems of Medicines. Stating this, the Minister drew the attention of the participants to granting of patents done recently in developed nations. These patents, the Minister said, lack novelty and non-obviousness, though due to non-availability of codified information to patent examiners in developed nations, patents were granted. The Minister expressed the hope that the Seminar would discuss and evolve methodology for benefit sharing as well as for protection of TSM from piracy.

The 3-day Seminar organised by WIPO in association Department of Industrial Development, Department of Indian Systems of Medicines and ASSOCHAM, has representatives from 18 countries in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Author: GRAIN
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