Patenting Slokas:Offbeat Chants!

The Yoga- Patent imbroglio effectively fueled by media hyperbole and rhetoric continues unabated albeit with a small detour. After doing the wrong stretch on yoga, this time around it’s a wrong chant of the Slokas The debate has progressed (or should I say regressed) to patenting of Slokas.Slokas are traditional Sanskrit Verses that are found in ancient Vedic texts. As such the term ‘sloka’ could be used to broadly mean and include verses from ayurvedic texts; verses that are chanted whilst performing yoga or the prayers and divine invocations chanted during traditional vedic rituals. In my understanding it is a generic term that comprises of many sub divisions and falls under the broad category of TK.

A recent article in the Hindu talks about a communiqué issued by the Ayush (Dept of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy), Govt of India,

‘The Union Government is launching a project to translate ancient Sanskrit scriptures into five foreign languages. These will be sent to patent offices globally to prevent any commercial misuse of traditional Indian knowledge in the U.S. and other countries’.

The exercise is still targeted at protecting TK from the possible risk of mis-patenting. The team at Spicyip has spent considerable lung power and ink trying to explain to the ill informed media about the difference between a copyright and a patent vis a vis the yoga debate. The message seems to have been lost in translation

Restating the stated once again:

The terms copyright and patent are not synonymous and cannot be used interchangeably.

Different forms of TK merit different applications of law. It is inappropriate to conclude and surmise that all forms of TK can be brought under the patent umbrella. This is a huge fallacy and an erroneous assumption.

Medical formulations gleaned from Ayurvedic texts can invite a patent, whereas a yogic pose cannot. A sloka that deals with a medical formulation or a sloka that is a divine invocation would be better of with a copyright cover. A one size fits all and the cookie cutter approach is completely misguided in this context.

Amidst all this brouhaha, the U.S government has issued a statement categorically denying that any patent or trademark has been issued to the ancient system of Yoga.

Recent media reports alleging that such patents exist are inaccurate,” the statement said. The US government has conducted a search of all patents issued and no patent on yoga, “asana” or exercises have been identified, it said.’

“Although the US government is unaware of any US patents on the yoga, the US Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents on new and non-obvious devices that may be used in conjunction with yoga,” the statement said without explaining what the materials were.

Again, Shamnad, had preempted this in his FAQs with Rohan George

Proving to be quite an anticlimax, this unworthy mess as could have been avoided had the media and the vitriolic crusaders taken care to educate themselves on fundamental legal concepts before embarking on an empty tirade. It perhaps has something to do with the educational system that fosters learning by rote, without a proper understanding of the essence. Unlearning faulty concepts and relearning basics would help avoid a repeat.

Shamnad, Shwetasree and I nod in agreement!


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4 thoughts on “Patenting Slokas:Offbeat Chants!”

  1. Thanks for your comments Ravi.Looks like we need to reasess and evaluate our educational system.Somtehing is defintely missing here that is not stiking the right chord.Its either the education or the dissemination or perhaps the outreach itself that causes such ignorance.

  2. i will give you an analogy.till some
    time back there was some serious lack of info abt AIDS in this country,which problem was addresed by active participation of lot of agencies and govt to a great extent. a similar effort by all
    involved may work in understanding about patents also!!

  3. Thats exactly the kind of initiative we need to undertake….A primer on IP to begin with,where the Govt,agency and activists are actively involved to ensure that informataion is desseminated effectively across the board .Thanks Ravi!

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