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India Widens Access to Traditional Knowledge Digital Library

The Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved a project to widen access to the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) database to users besides patent offices. The move is ambitious and forward-looking, as the TKDL will drive research, development, and innovation based on India’s heritage across several domains, a press release has claimed.

Until now, access to the complete TKDL database was restricted to 14 patent offices worldwide for research and examination. This defensive protection of the TKDL has been effective in safeguarding Indian traditional knowledge from misappropriation and is considered a global benchmark, the release stated. Now, the TKDL will be available to other users as well. It can cater to a vast user base that would include businesses, public and private research institutions, educational institutions, students, ISM practitioners, knowledge holders, patentees and their legal representatives, and government agencies. The access to the TKDL database would be through a paid subscription model, with a phase-wise opening to national and international users.

The TKDL is a prior art database of Indian traditional knowledge established in 2001 by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Department of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy (ISM&H, now Ministry of AYUSH). The TKDL is a first of its kind globally and has been serving as an exemplary model to other nations. The information is documented in a digitised format in five international languages: English, German, French, Japanese, and Spanish. The TKDL provides information in languages and formats understandable by patent examiners at patent offices worldwide, which prevents the erroneous grant of patents.

The approval of the Cabinet to widen the access of the database beyond patent offices emphasises integrating and co-opting traditional knowledge with modern practices toward enhancing innovation and trade. The TKDL is an important source of traditional information to advance innovation and technology frontiers. The current contents of TKDL shall facilitate the wider adoption of Indian traditional medicines, while also propelling new manufacturers and innovators promoting the development of enterprises based on India’s knowledge heritage.

Indian traditional knowledge (TK) offers immense potential to serve national and global needs, providing societal benefits as well as economic growth. For example, the traditional systems of medicine and wellness from the country like Ayurveda and Yoga help people all over the world. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has also been witnessing the extensive use of Indian traditional medicines whose benefits include immune-boosting, symptom-relief, and anti-viral. In April, the World Health Organisation (WHO) established its first off-shore Global Centre for Traditional Medicines (GCTM) in India. This demonstrates the continued relevance of traditional knowledge in addressing the current and emerging needs of the world, the press release explained.

In the future, more information on Indian traditional knowledge from other domains will be added to the TKDL database. While catering to its primary mandate to prevent granting wrong patents on Indian traditional knowledge, the TKDL database will also push creative minds to innovate better, safer, and more effective solutions for a healthier and technology-empowered population.

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