A reminder that Graham Dutfield is speaking at NUJS this afternoon on “traditional medicines” and patents:

Venue: Room 006, NUJS, Kolkata
Date: Jan 22, 2010 (Friday)
Time: 3 pm to 5 pm (including QandA)
Registration: If you’re interested in attending, please send an email with your name, designation and institution to shayonee[at] Attendance is free.

From Traditional Medicines to Modern Drugs: Do Patents Protect Inventions and Promote Piracy?

For as long as there has been a pharmaceutical industry, traditional knowledge has provided innumerable successful leads in the discovery of drugs that have generated enormous profits. Because the pharmaceutical industry’s emergence in the late 19th century, and its further evolution since then, seem like such a radical break from the past, it is all too easy to overlook this fact. In consequence, the role of traditional knowledge (TK) is under-appreciated. This has in turn resulted in TK holders and their communities deriving virtually no benefits from the commercial use of their knowledge by drug firms.

The pharmaceutical industry is science based. Arguably, it not only ‘invented’ in-house corporate research and development, but also modern intellectual property management strategy including the aggressive assertion of patents and other intellectual property rights, especially trade marks. But patents appear to do more than just protect the expensive inventions and R&D investments of corporations. They seem also to enable them to secure legal monopolies over the knowledge, innovations and practices of members of traditional communities.

Numerous cases of such “biopiracy” are cited, and not just in health. These include patents relating to neem, turmeric, hoodia and other products and associated knowledge that are common in India or in other parts of the world including Latin America and Africa. If novelty and inventive step are essential requirements for the grant of a patent, how can traditional knowledge be misappropriated? This seminar will seek answers.

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  1. True it is that inventive step and novely are essential requirements for teh grant of a patent. Yet TKs can be misappropriated and are being misappropriated time and again due to the improper documentation of the preexisting TKs. It is that time when the TKs around the world are absolutely/ largely registered that the misappropriation be checked. The international database will aid the registrar of patents and the relative category of judges to keep a check on TKs.

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