The team is joined by GuestKats Mirko Brüß, Rosie Burbidge, Nedim Malovic, Frantzeska Papadopolou, Mathilde Pavis, and Eibhlin Vardy
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SpecialKats: Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo (TechieKat), Hayleigh Bosher (Book Review Editor), and Tian Lu (Asia Correspondent).

Tuesday, 27 December 2005


Private Eye, public icon

Under the caption "Bush iPod confusion" satirical British magazine Private Eye runs the photograph and speech-balloon on the left. If there's any doubt that trade marks are cultural icons that belong to the general public as much as they ever do to their registered owners, this picture should remove it.

Hands off our neem tree, say Indians

The IPKat found this item on BusinessWeek Online. It begins:

"For thousands of years Indian villagers have used an extract from seeds of the neem tree as an insecticide. So when a US company patented a process for producing the substance in 1994, India reacted with outrage. After spending millions of dollars in legal fees to successfully overturn the patent, India's government now is creating a 30-million-page database of traditional knowledge to fend off entrepreneurs trying to patent the country's ancient lore".
The database, called the Traditional Knowledge Data Library, will make information available to patent offices around the world to ensure that traditional remedies are not presented as new discoveries. "If societies have been using it for centuries why should it be patented?" said Shiv Basant, a senior official at the Health Ministry's Department of Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy, India's traditional health and medical disciplines.

Trees occupy a major role in modern research and development

The IPKat thinks the basic idea is fine. Nothing that has been known and used for thousands of years should be misappropriated by a single patent applicant. But the patent system must be allowed to do what it does best, to provide incentives and investment support for people who discover things that haven't been around before, like new ways of making things. Merpel adds, why not make the Traditional Knowledge Data Library available to everyone and not just patent offices? It might save inventors a lot of time of effort if they can more easily search the prior art and see for themselves what they can't patent?

Why neem trees are good for you
How to tell good trees from bad trees: St Matthew explains
Bad tree here


Filemot said...

WIPO do have an Indian traditional knowledge database at It contains one entry for neem which is not exactly a direct teaching of use as an insecticide.
Why however should such a huge sum of money be wasted on invalidating a patent without a commercial reason just apparently a political one. There seems to be some suggestion here that Western flat dwellers should not be permitted to benefit from traditional knowledge. Is someone seeking a perpetual trade secret monopoly for these cures. If someone is prepared to formulate and test chemicals to modern standards to make them accessible andif in doing so they overcome a technical problem then why not grant them a patent. It wont be for the naturally occuring substance but it may still protect the investment and allow the investor a just reward.

Michael Harman said...

If access to the "Traditional Knowledge Data Library" is restricted, can its contents be said to the "made available to the public" (or the US equivalent)? It seems to be a case of trying to have one's cake and eat it.

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