Traditional knowledge

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Information about traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions

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By Exponent Attorneys at Law For Rachana Foundation Traditional Knowledge  All rights reserved www.exponent-ip.com

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Abhay: Rajasthan ! Just as I heard of and visualise! A state full of colours. Just amazing !! Right Neha ? Neha : Yes true, but I am more enthusiastic to meet the famous tribes here, the “Bhil Tribes” and to gain insight on their traditional knowledge. I am also going to give them information on traditional knowledge. Abhay : From where did you get to know about this term traditional knowledge? Neha : I had attended a seminar on intellectual property rights held by Rachana Foundation and there I got to know that, Intellectual property rights are the rights which protect the creations of our mind and that, traditional Knowledge is one of its forms. Abhay : Ok, but why are we going to visit these Bhil Tribes ?

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Neha : Its because, these tribes have been using so many plants and natural produce in their daily life. And you know Abhay! The great legend Maharana Pratap, known for exceeding courage in the battle field, had attained victory in one of the battles against Mughals, led by Biaram khan with the help of these bhils only. The bhils used a poisonous Juice of the plant called as Baramasi. They extracted the juice from this plant, prepared a thick paste, applied it to the tips of the arrows and attacked the Mughal army with these arrows; within minutes the huge army got reduced to peanuts . The plant which they used is their traditional knowledge, which they have gathered through generations and this knowledge led them to the victory. Abhay: Wow! That’s marvellous. I never knew anything like traditional knowledge existed, and that it can be so beneficial. Can I get some more information on this?

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Neha : Of course ! but wait till we reach our tribal friends dwelling. They too need to know about their traditional knowledge and related rights. Neha : Hello my friends ! We have all gathered here for understanding about Traditional knowledge, which is very precious for you all. For example the variety of techniques you employ in preserving the seeds; or the types of agricultural methods you practice to get good produce is nothing but your traditional knowledge . Let me explain about traditional knowledge in detail.

Traditional Knowledge:

Traditional Knowledge Traditional Knowledge may be considered as knowledge, know how, skills, innovations or practices; that are passed through generations within your communities, and thereby form part and parcel of your community. For example, your knowledge about traditional medicines , traditional hunting or fishing techniques, animal migration patterns, water management etc is your precious asset, which is required to be protected. Santha (the Tribal) : Sorry to interrupt, but is it that important to protect traditional knowledge?

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Neha : Yes, it is very important my friend! because Traditional knowledge is integral to the identity of most local communities; It plays an important role in your health care, food security, culture, religion, identity, environment, trade and development; If somebody tries to exploit your traditional knowledge for industrial or commercial benefit, it can affect your interests. Santha (the tribal) : what do you mean by exploiting? I didn’t get you?

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I will give you some examples of how traditional knowledge in India has got exploited… Neha : As I said earlier, the medicinal paste you make in your community is your traditional knowledge, but if someone tries to steal that knowledge, and make profits out of the same without giving you any share of it, it amounts to exploitation of your traditional knowledge. This exploitation is called as Bio piracy. Bio piracy is the misappropriation of Traditional Knowledge with the purpose of getting exclusive ownership over that knowledge.

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A British Pharmacy firm filed a patent application before the UK patent office, claiming the use of ginger and kutki plant for treatment of cold. However, the department of AYUSH and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research  took objection to the application, and successfully persuaded British Patent Office to reject the application, by citing medicinal texts dating back to the 18th century, on use of Ginger to treat cough,asthma & lung diseases. However, the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research got it revoked, by giving sufficient evidence that turmeric was a part of India’s traditional knowledge US Patent office granted patent for the "use of turmeric in wound healing". Turmeric Case Ginger Case

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Neem Oil Case European Patent Office granted a patent to the US Corporation, W.R. Grace Company, and US Department of Agriculture, for a method of controlling fungi on plants by applying Neem Oil. A group of international NGOs and representatives of Indian farmers filed legal opposition against the patent. They submitted evidence that the fungicidal effect of extracts of Neem seeds had been known and used for centuries in Indian agriculture to protect crops. And therefore was not patentable. The European patent office considering the evidence revoked the patent granted on Neem Oil.

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Neha : Wow! It was an amazing folk dance! You know what! these traditional folk dances are also a form of your traditional heritage. They are called traditional cultural expressions. Let me explain it to you in detail. Santha : Ok Neha! That was actually quite a piece of information, but before we proceed any further, Please join us in our folk dance, you will like it !! We all tribal brothers have arranged this as a surprise for you!

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Traditional Cultural Expressions include Traditional Cultural Expressions Traditional cultural expressions are also called "expressions of folklore“. They are integral to the cultural and social identities of your communities . Verbal expressions like stories, tales, poetry, riddles, signs; Elements of languages such as names, words, symbols indications; Musical expressions such as songs and instrumental music; Expressions by actions such as dances , plays, artistic forms of rituals; Tangible expressions like drawings, paintings, carvings, jewellery, metal ware, textiles, designs, carpets, sculptures, pottery, terracotta, crafts, mosaic, needlework, basket weaving, woodwork, costumes, musical instruments, architectural forms etc.

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Santha: Dance and Music are just sources of our entertainment. We never knew they had so much value!! Safeguarding your cultural identity and values; For preventing unauthorized exploitation; For monetizing your traditional knowledge. Neha : Yes, they have got great value, so you need to protect them. The protection is very important for Santha : Monetizing? You mean, we can make money? Neha : Yes, I will tell you about a very famous case of monetisation of traditional knowledge in India.

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Jeevani Drug Case So, the Indian scientists isolated 12 active compounds from the plant and developed the drug “Jevaani”, and filed two patent applications on the drug. However , these properties were discovered by modern Indian scientists only recently, while on a scientific expedition to the Agasthia Hills. They noticed that their guides belonging to the Kaani tribe were very energetic in sharp contrast to themselves, and found that it was indeed the fruits they were eating that made them energetic . Trichopus zeylanicus (Arogyapacha) has been used for centuries by the  Kaani  tribal community in the state of   Kerala   in India, for its medicinal properties.

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Then they licenced the drug to the Arya Vaidya Pharmacy, an Indian pharmaceutical manufacturer. And as a recognition of Kani’s traditional knowledge, the scientists shared the benefits arising from the commercialization of Jeevani with the Kani Tribe by establishing a Trust Fund. Santha : Oh! So What should we do to protect this treasure? Are there any measures by which our Traditional Knowledge will be protected In India? Neha: India has yet to frame law, to specifically address the question on the protection of Traditional Cultural Expressions and folklore.

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    Indian Government has also initiated the project called Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which provides information on traditional knowledge existing in the country . With the help of this library, the prior art search is made easier, and the traditional knowledge of India is protected from getting exploited by other nations . However , presently Traditional Knowledge is being indirectly protected by defensive methods through Biological Diversity Act, Patents Act , Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act and Geographical Indications Act ,.

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However, at international level Traditional Knowledge has not been conferred equal protection as Industrial Property. T he negotiations are currently going on in the World Intellectual Property Organization, Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore towards the development of an international legal instrument, for the effective protection of traditional cultural expressions and traditional knowledge, and to address the intellectual property aspects of access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources. Santha : We have so many people visiting our place from all parts of the world. They are curious about our traditional practices, can we share our knowledge with them? Neha: No . you should Protect your Traditional Knowledge my friend! By protecting I mean, you should practice and commercialize your traditional knowledge, as it is your wealth.

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A farmer named Badinbhai, belonging to a small community called Gadhvi, faced the problem of hairy caterpillar in castor crop. I will give you a very good example of commercialization. For that purpose I will suggest you to form your own society, which can keep vigil on all the acts pertaining to Traditional Knowledge, there are many non-profit organisations which can help you with this. He developed an herbal extract to solve the pest control problem. He used tamarind and lemon juice mixed with water, which gained success by almost complete control of this pest in his castor crop.

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This individual innovation may eventually become the traditional knowledge in due course. This community can use this knowledge for commercial gains. They can also further develop it by trying the technique on several other pests. Santha : Wow that’s incredible! We actually never thought that our practises and cultures could be so valuable ! Neha: They are, my friends! We all are proud of you, you are safeguarding our traditional treasure. Let us protect it and keep adding to its value by keeping it alive, and never let this knowledge get extinct. Looking at his experience, other farmers also started following his method to control the pest.

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Santha : Thank you so much for making us aware. We will now gear up and prepare for a mission to protect and enrich our traditional knowledge by forming a society! Thank You!

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