India's yoga database and patent piracy

From the IPKat's friend Carlos Conde comes this link to a Times of India piece, "India videographs 200 yoga postures to prevent patent piracy", which states, in relevant part:
"India has made available a database describing 1,300 yoga postures and videography of 200 popular among these as part of efforts to prevent patent pirates from exploiting it for commercial purposes. Scientists at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research ( CSIR) have scoured through 16 ancient texts, including Patanjali Yoga Sutra, and described 1300 yoga postures, a senior official said.

These will be made available to international patent offices through the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), TKDL director V K Gupta told reporters here. He said as part of phase II, 20 more ancient texts would be referred and more yoga postures would be described and put up on the digital library. "We are making available the 30-40 most popular yoga asanas in the open domain. The rest would be available only to patent offices," Gupta said.

In the United States alone, the patent authorities have issued more than 130 yoga-related patents [Have there been any infringement actions? And have any challenges to their validity been upheld?], 150 copyrights [Do patent authorities in the US issue copyrights? Merpel thinks she has missed something in the recent spate of patent reform discussions] and 2,300 trade marks related to the ancient practice ["Yoga-related" can mean a lot of different things here. Some clarification would be helpful].

Today, the Japan Patent Office (JPO) entered into an agreement with TKDL that would grant it access to the rich resource on traditional knowledge. The 'access agreement' was signed by Gupta and Tomoki Sawai, director, international affairs division of the JPO.   
India had earlier signed similar agreements with United States Patent & Trademark Office, European Patent Office, German Patent Office, Patent Office of Australia, Canada Patent Office (CIPO) and United Kingdom Trademark & Patent Office (UKPTO), during the last two years. The agreement signed with EPO in particular has resulted into remarkable success in preventing bio-piracy of Indian traditional knowledge at EPO.

The TKDL database includes 54 authoritative textbooks on ayurvedic medicine, nearly 1,50,000 ayurvedic, unani and siddha medicines. It is being used as a ready reckoner by patent examiners to compare patent applications with existing traditional knowledge. The information on traditional knowledge can be read in German, Japanese, English, French and Spanish [Interesting choice of languages: it's the European Patent Office plus Spanish, or the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market minus Italian -- and no Chinese]".
The IPKat disapproves of any attempt to abuse the patent system by patenting ancient skills, arts and practices -- but he wonders whether the establishment of this database is intended as a means of preventing its contents being misappropriated or as a way of enabling them to be controlled and exploited by a public authority.  Some explanation and clarification from his readers would be welcome.  Merpel wonders if any other countries are doing the same thing.
India's yoga database and patent piracy India's yoga database and patent piracy Reviewed by Jeremy on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 Rating: 5


  1. Very old news

    "In the United States alone, the patent authorities have issued more than 130 yoga-related patents [Have there been any infringement actions? And have any challenges to their validity been upheld?]"

    You're surprised?

    This is the land of the software patent

    You'll be pleased to hear that at least one lawyer is now sniffing around Argentine Tango offering to copyright moves and enforce them too.


  2. and...

  3. @Gentoo: thanks for your comments, which are much appreciated as usual.

    You describe this as "very old news". I didn't describe it as news, though - I only said the link had been bought to my attention. I thought it was worth discussing it.

    Kats don't just deal with news :-)

  4. There appear to be some previous IPKat postings in this area:

    Is this the same database (perhaps now progressed further toward completion), or a different one?

  5. Going to be difficult for the Indian authorities to enforce their
    patent rights on yoga postures. There is an excellent recent
    Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis by Mark Singleton of the Divinity
    School, which is now a book "Yoga Body: The Origins of Modern Posture
    Practice" that asserts that all but a handful of asanas/postures are
    derived from Scandanavian and American exercise routines from the late
    19th and early 20th century.

    This was clearly an amazing assertion unless one knows the path they
    took. Although the yoga philosophy is millenia old, postures/asanas
    were not really a focal point of the discipline anywhere, including
    India until the late 19th, early 20th century. They were imported to
    India during that period by the Maharaj of Mysore to give Indian youth
    a practice routine to strenghten their bodies. Yoga posture routines
    are not "ancient" as is asserted, but are less than 100 years old,
    most much less.

    Yoga Journal, the "bible" of American Yoga published an article in
    November 2010 from Singleton's book, written by Singleton.

    Assertion of patentability will be clouded, at least


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