Q. 34 Ignoring our traditional knowledge can be prove costly in the area of biological patenting. Justify.

Human communities have always generated, refined and passed on the knowledge from generation to generation. Such knowledge is called traditional knowledge and is often an important part of the cultural identities. A number of cases relating to traditional knowledge have attracted international attention.

As a result, the issue of traditional knowledge has been brought to the general debate surrounding intellectual property. These cases involve, what is often referred to as ‘biopiracy’

The examples of turmeric and neem (Indian traditional herbal medicine) illustrates the issues that can arise when patent protection is granted to inventions relating to traditional
knowledge which is already in the public domain. In these cases, invalid patents were issued because the patent examiners were not aware or the relevant traditional knowledge.

e.g,, India is one of the country possessing the richest diversity of rice (2000 varieties). Basmati rice is distinct for its unique aroma and flavour and 27 documented varieties of Basmati are grown in India. There is reference to Basmati in ancient texts, folklore and
poetry, as it has been grown for centuries.

In 1997, an American company Rice teen, Got patent rights on Basmati rice through the US patent and Trademark Office. This allowed the company to sell a ‘new’ variety of Basmati, in
the US and abroad.

This ‘new’ variety of Basmati had actually been derived from Indian farmer's varieties. Indian Basmati was crossed with semi-dwarf varieties and claimed as an invention or a novelty. The patent extends to functional equivalents, implying that other people selling Basmati rice could be restricted by the patent.

If we are not vigilant and we do not immediately counter these patent applications, other countries/individuals may encash on our rich legacy and we may not be able to do anything about it.

However, India achieved success in contesting patent for Basmati, rice as on September 2000 Rice teen withdraw the claims contested by India. Therefore, ignoring our traditional knowledge, can be proved costly in the area of biological patenting.