Critical Evaluation of Laws on Traditional Knowledge

Critical Evaluation of Laws on Traditional Knowledge

Unanza Gulzar (The NorthCap University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1835-9.ch001
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People at large do not have the capacity to transform their knowledge into formal specification and consequently into wealth. Some people who are hampered because of their poverty illiteracy, isolative habitat, lack of information and technological gadgets are unable to convert their knowledge into wealth. In this background, the chapter has critically evaluated traditional knowledge in the context of the challenges it faces. Further, it analyses the protection given to traditional knowledge under different laws and its international perspective. Moreover, efforts are taken at both the national and regional levels. Lastly, the chapter has come up with certain suggestions for its improvement and protection.
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Most of the people in the world do have the capability to convert their traditional knowledge (TK) into formal arrangements and eventually it into wealth. The reason may be illiteracy, poverty, awareness of technological advancements and handling of gadgets. Some of the cases (Singh, 2008). Some of the cases, though illustrative, are:

  • The big business houses, hoteliers, film industries and music tycoon are using cultural expressions of nomadic, tribal and village community.

  • The pharmaceutical industry widely uses the rich heritage of TK. TK is used in allopathic and Ayurveda medicine.

  • Village community, tribal and indigenous people have TK of biodiversity. They are conserving knowledge of biodiversity, which serves the largest genetic resource for breeding activities, but gene giant or seed giant (MNC’s) through the IPR regime may make huge profits.

Hence, the research has four objectives:

  • To evaluate existing laws on TK.

  • To understand the international and regional perspectives on TK.

  • To evaluate the challenges to the protection of TK and efforts taken for the protection of the same.

  • To suggest measures for the protection and preservation of TK.

TK is defined as “the indigenous people of world possess an immense knowledge for their environment based on centuries of living close to nature “(Mayor, 1994). Living in and from richness and variety of complex ecosystems, they have an understanding of the properties of the plants and animals, the functioning of the ecosystem and the technique of using and managing them that is particular and often detailed.

In rural communities of developing countries, locally occurring species are relied on many sometimes, all foods, medicines, fuels, building materials and other products. The essential attribute of the cultural identity of any place is the knowledge of its people, their understanding of it and relationship with it (Ellen, 2000).

TK has the potential of being transformed into wealth by providing leads/clues for the development of useful practices and processes for the benefit of humanity. The valuable leads/ clues provide by TK can save time, money investment of modern technology and other industries into research and product development (Tripathi, 2003). Existing Intellectual property rights (IPR) system is based on individual private property rights. TK is incompatible with IPR because it emphasises collective creation and ownership. The information is classified into four groups in TK:

  • Knowledge possessed by society about TK with or without records and is inconsistent use by people, e.g. everyday use of neem and turmeric.

  • Information public holds through texts for use and its examination, e.g. Ayurveda text, the information in the palm leaves.

  • Information that is not documented or commonly unknown outside a small group of people and not revealed outside the group, for example, tribal knowledge.

  • Information known only to individuals and members of families, e.g. cure of asthma by the Bathini Goud family using a specific fish variety as a means for a dispensing anti-asthma drug.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Bioprospecting: The search for plant and animal species from which medicinal drugs and other commercially valuable compounds can be obtained.

Indigenous Medicine: It is a traditional medicine that comprises medical aspects of TK that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine.

Human Genome: It is a complete set of nucleic acid sequences for humans, encoded as DNA within 23 chromosome pairs in cell nuclei and in a small DNA molecule found individual mitochondria.

Geographical Indication: It is a sign used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin and sign must identify a product as originating in a given place.

Benefit Sharing: It defines fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. It recognises the communities that hold such knowledge are entitled to a share of the benefit arising from commercial utilisation.

Bio-Piracy: the practice of commercially exploiting naturally occurring biochemical or genetic material, especially by obtaining patents that restrict its future use, while failing to pray fair compensation to the community from which it originates.

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