Some months after India's access-sharing with the European Patent Office (EPO) on the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), the impact of which we had reported recently, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) too now has been granted access to the database. (Image from here)
USPTO and TK from India
A brief look around the USPTO TK tools section shows this will not be the first Indian database that the examiners will have access to - if the links are anything to go by, the USPTO has already been using the open databases made available by the Central Council for Research in Ayurveda and Siddha (in five volumes of Ayurvedic Pharmacopia) and - interestingly enough - the Himalaya Healthcare herbs database. Nevertheless, the TKDL should widen the scope of search significantly.
Along with the TKDL access-sharing agreement, there was also a renewal of vows on the IP front, where the two governments have bilaterally agreed to focus on human resource development, capacity building and public awareness programs in intellectual property protection and enforcement.
Francis Gurry on the TKDL
Appropriately enough, as I write this, Mint has posted an interview with Dr Francis Gurry of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, who was on an India-visit recently, which, inter alia, refers to the TKDL and the work that CSIR has done in the field --
Dr Gurry, praising the TKDL, says -
"It is a very important and fine product that is being produced by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research. It is a product that can make available to patent offices around the world on a confidential basis...detail of traditional knowledge to assist in preventing the granting of patents over that traditional knowledge by unauthorized parties. It is also a basis on which to establish potential collaborative arrangements with private sector or industry to actually use the traditional knowledge in practice. I hope to also collaborate with India to lead a process of establishing similar TKDLs using its approach in other developing countries that wish to use this methodology."
Tips from WIPO?
Note some key phrases in Dr Gurry's comments -- TKDL can make information available "on a confidential basis", and is "a basis ... [for] potential collaborative arrangements". There were concerns raised on this blog earlier of the vulnerability of such a database on opening up access - Dr Gurry is inclined to balance between keeping information confidential and strategically leveraging TK in collaboration with perhaps industry or the private sector. Is Dr Gurry hinting at how India and Indian industry to strategise in the times to come?
I would think there are already many players in the traditional pharmacopeia business in India, although there may be room for plenty more - perhaps game changers like Dabur or Himalaya or Hamdard could share a lesson or two in their experience with TK? I say this without knowing anything about their business models or resource bases, but there should be some case studies available at hand to explore the WIPO chief's proposition further?
International agreement by 2011-12?
On a related note, and in reference to the same interview, Dr Gurry has indicated there may be some form of "international architecture" on TK in about two years from now, once the negotiations on TK resume next month at WIPO. You will recall this is something we have briefly discussed on the blog, but this has mostly been at third remove courtesy folks in Geneva (e.g., KEI and IP Watch), who have been keeping a much closer eye on things.