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January 3, 2006

India implements a traditional knowledge database

 
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According to this AP story, India is implementing a database of traditional knowledge.

This is actually extremely important, despite the fact that it will be glossed over by many who pay attention to IP.

The database is being implemented for several reasons. One is to assert a form of national property right to traditional knowledge. The idea here is to go on record that a particular bit of knowledge is the historical property of a nation or of its indigenous peoples, in order to make it easier to demand royalties or licensing rights to companies who attempt to use that bit of knowledge in patented products.

Companies may not appreciate this device, because no doubt it creates additional uncertainty when they bring a new product to market. Have they unknowingly or unintentionally stumbled upon a listed compound or molecule that happens to be in the TK database of some country? Will countries just list everything they can think of in their TK databases, to make them comprehensive tools for royalty extortion? This is a additional degree of uncertainty in bringing new products to market.

However, the TK database scheme is probably the most harmless and least problematic of the solutions that are being proposed for the issue of traditional knowledge. Far more dangerous are some of the proposed solutions related to the Convention on BioDiversity (CBD). It may very well be that western countries need to embrace the idea of the TK database in order to stave off much more economically-damaging proposals.

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