Sponsored By: Infinity Foundation

Digital Library of Traditional Knowledge

Digital Library of Traditional Knowledge
by D.P. Agrawal

Mashelkar, Director General of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (India) took up three issues relating to treating traditional knowledge ‘on par’ with industrial property systems, designing new international Patent Classification Systems to give due recognition to traditional knowledge, and creating a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), when he was the Chairman of the Standing Committee (Mashelkar 2001).

A comprehensive initiative was spearheaded by the Department of Indian Systems of Medicine and Homeopathy (ISMH). It set up an inter-disciplinary task force, known as TKDL task force, by drawing experts from Central Council of Research of Ayurveda and Siddha, Banaras Hindu University, National Informatics Centre, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research and Controller General of Patents and Trade Marks.

The Task Force evolved a scientific classification approach known as Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC). Which would enable retrieval of information on Traditional Knowledge in a scientific and rational manner. The structure of TKRC would be similar to that commonly used for classifying modern innovations, which enable an easy linkage with the International Patent Classification (IPC). All the patent examiners around the world use IPC during patent examination.

Early this year, WIPO set up a Traditional Knowledge Task Force consisting of US, Japan, European Union, China and India. The Indian proposal on creating TKRC was presented to them. All members of the Task Force have already initiated its work and is likely to submit the draft report to WIPO by February 2002.

If the Indian proposal were accepted, the advantages would be:

First, IPC has more than one hundred thousand sub-groups for retrieving information on modern scientific inventions. However, it has only one sub-group for retrieving information on medicinal plants. Indian TKRC has information on 5,000 sub-groups. Therefore, their inclusion in IPC will enhance the quality of patent examination substantially.

Second, similar systems will be evolved by other countries and regions, such as China, Latin, America, Indonesia, etc. which are rich in Traditional Knowledge. Traditional Knowledge of the developing world will thus also be resolved to a large extent, since the patent examiners will have access to the pertinent information in an appropriately classified form.


Mashelkar, R.A., 2001. Intellectual property rights and the Third World. Current Science 81 (8): 963.