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Saturday, June 28, 2008

More on sharing and protecting traditional knowledge at the same time

Roy Mathew, IPRs policy proposes ‘knowledge commons’, The Hindu, June 28, 2008.  Excerpt:

The Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) Policy for Kerala, released by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan here on Friday, puts forth the concept of ‘knowledge commons’ and ‘commons licence’ for traditional knowledge.

The policy says that all traditional knowledge, including traditional medicine, must belong to the domain of “knowledge commons” and not to public domain. The system should be introduced through legal arrangements. While community or family custodians will have rights to knowledge that belonged to them, the rest of the traditional knowledge will belong to Kerala State.

No entity registered as a medium or large enterprise may be deemed to have any rights over traditional knowledge. Any community or family custodian of traditional knowledge would have to register as knowledge-practitioner with the Kerala Traditional Knowledge Authority proposed by the policy.

All rights holders of traditional knowledge will be deemed to be holding their rights under a ‘commons licence’. Under this licence, the right holder permits others the use of the knowledge for non-commercial purposes. If any development is made using that knowledge, it will have to be put back into the ‘knowledge commons’ and cannot be patented anywhere. For commercial use by others, an agreement would have to be reached with the rights holder. In the case of rights held by the State, all actual practitioners of knowledge would have automatic rights for commercial use provided that they are not medium or large enterprises....

Comment.  I see the tensions here.  But these are very complex regulations.  What's wrong with the simple model embodied by India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library?  The TKDL collects India's traditional knowledge, puts it into words, translates it into modern languages, documents its provenance, makes it freely available online, and affirmatively sends copies to patent offices around the world.  One goal is to block new patents and invalidate old patents through the doctrine of prior art.  It avoids new regulations on the use of knowledge and goes beyond the passive protection of traditional knowledge to the active gathering and promulgation of it to everyone with an internet connection.  For more, see our past posts on the TKDL.