In the first step by a developing country to stop multinational companies patenting traditional remedies from local plants and animals, the Indian government has effectively licensed 200,000 local treatments as "public property" free for anyone to use but no one to sell as a "brand".
The move comes after scientists in Delhi noticed an alarming trend – the "bio-prospecting" of natural remedies by companies abroad. After trawling through the records of the global trademark offices, officials found 5,000 patents had been issued — at a cost of at least $150m (£104m) — for "medical plants and traditional systems".
"More than 2,000 of these belong to the Indian systems of medicine ... We began to ask why multinational companies were spending millions of dollars to patent treatments that so many lobbies in Europe deny work at all," said Dr Vinod Kumar Gupta, who heads the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which lists in encyclopaedic detail the 200,000 treatments.
The database, which took 200 researchers eight years to compile by meticulously translating ancient Indian texts, will now be used by the European Patent Office to check against "bio-prospectors".
Source - The Guardian