Excerpted from: Current Science 82 (4): 413-419.
Traditional knowledge is not protected within the patent system as it stands today. The turmeric case highlights the problems faced by India in preventing bio-piracy. The recording of traditional knowledge seeks to reduce the possibility of bio-piracy, but looks to future legislation to effectively protect the rights of the people. Some important structural changes based on a sound legal footing are proposed, which can be easily incorporated within the present databases, and would go a long way in preventing bio-piracy and protecting the interests of the knowledge-holders footing.
The recording of traditional knowledge is taking place today. It is imperative that the method of recompense be in place before the information being recorded is made public. Failure to do this would be doing a grave injustice to those who developed this knowledge through generations.
Traditional knowledge is in demand as a source of information of the possible properties of biological material. It is valuable knowledge. We should place its value high, not devalue it completely by giving it away free. Unless we do so, no one else will acknowledge that it has any value at all. Intellectual property rights, including patent rights, are rights over knowledge. We have that knowledge. Let us not give up our rights. In dealing with patents we are dealing with a law designed for businessmen. Let us also have a business-like approach to the problem. By designing the structure of the traditional knowledge database appropriately, it is possible to make the knowledge available to all and at the same time retain the control necessary for benefit sharing to be operationalized. This would go far in ensuring that cases of 'bio-piracy' are prevented in the future.