Ensuring continued access to Indian medicine poorer sections of Indian society – Traditional Knowledge And World Intellectual Property Law

Jennifer Anne Blaylock
Rina Elster Pantalony
Copyright, Legal Issues and Policy H72.1804
December 16, 2008

Traditional Knowledge And World Intellectual Property Law […]

TK [Traditional Knowledge] policies ideally benefit indigenous populations by protecting their specialized knowledge from exploitation by third parties. However, TK can be protected and monetized in ways that are detrimental to the original TK. Maarten Bode in the article “Taking Traditional Knowledge to the Market: The Commoditization of Indian Medicine” discusses how traditional medicinal information was exploited by Indian manufactures. The Indian government allowed a certain category of Ayurvedic and Unani medicines, called “Patent & Proprietary Medicines,” to be packaged as Ayurvedic and Unani medicines if they can prove that their ingredients are actual Ayurvedic and Unani ingredients.[1] The manufacturing processes of these products are not regulated by traditional practices, so they often take the form of pills and other western style medicines. […]

“The commoditization of Ayurvedic and Unani formulas threatens to rob the poorer sections of Indian society of access to Indian medicine because they cannot afford the relatively expensive Ayurvedic and Unani brands.”[3] Originally the government gave tax brakes to companies making Ayurvedic and Unani traditional medicines because they wanted to encourage the proliferation of traditional medicine, which at the end of colonialism was cheaper than other medicines and was a product of national pride. Here the marketing of TK has actually led to many companies abandoning the traditional methods of production often taking the ingredients of the traditional medicine out of the context of the traditional approach, which often requires life-style changes and personal empowerment in addition to the herbal tonics.[4]

Under international TK legislation these pharmaceutical companies would theoretically need to compensate indigenous populations for the use Ayurvedic traditional knowledge, but in this example, who is the indigenous population that owns this TK? These medicines have been in wide spread use throughout India for many years. Also, in this example the governmental control of when Ayurvedic and Unani TK can be advertised has not protected its misuse by Indian companies wanting to sell traditional medicines in a modern “quick-fix” method. The TK has been “modernized” and adapted in ways that may devalue the original TK. This is only one example of current TK type policies; how are other policies protecting indigenous peoples culture and their ability to continue to produce and refine their traditional knowledge assets?

To try to understand what TK polices have been developed and by which institutions, WIPO sponsored several surveys that looked into the practices and protocols of various countries in relation to IP and TK. Malia Talakai’s report, “Intellectual Property and Safeguarding Cultural Heritage: A Survey of Practices and Protocols in the South Pacific” gives some examples of how different cultural organizations in the South Pacific are using institutional policy to protect the TK of various indigenous populations. […]


Bode, Maarten. “Taking Traditional Knowledge to the Market: The Commoditization of  Indian Medicine.” Anthropology & Medicine. 13:3, December 2006: 225-236.

Source:  Jennifer Anne Blaylock – Traditional Knowledge And World Intellectual Property Law
Address : http://www.nyu.edu/tisch/preservation/program/student_work/2008fall/08f_1804_Blaylock_a2.doc
Date Visited: Sat Feb 23 2013 18:43:28 GMT+0100 (CET)

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

Maarten Bode, publications
Source: Dr Maarten Bode
Address : http://sma.socsci.uva.nl/staff/bode_pub.htm
Date Visited: Sat Feb 23 2013 19:27:42 GMT+0100 (CET)


“It was assumed that tribal people have same health problems, similar needs and hence the uniform national pattern of rural health care would be applicable to them as well, albeit with some alteration in population: provider ratio. The different terrain and environment in which they live, different social systems, different culture and hence different health care needs were not addressed.” – Abhay Bang in Report of the Expert Committee on Tribal Health >>

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