VARANASI: The rules and regulations of patenting of traditional knowledge and biological material are affecting the research activities in the field of Ayurvedic medicines.
The faculty of Ayurveda, Banaras Hindu University, is witnessing shortage of research scholars who are enthusiastic to conduct research activities because of the patent norms and regulations.
The Indian Patent Law allows patenting only when the innovation meets the standards of novelty, new invention and industrial applicability. It restricts the patenting of innovation in traditional knowledge, including Ayurveda and other traditional medicines.
HoD Ayurveda PB Jha said that the young researchers are not enthusiastic enough. They have lost interest in research and rather focus on academics for a career in teaching. The reason for this is that the government does not give patent to Ayurvedic formulations, stating it under traditional knowledge. In addition to this, the stringent patent laws on traditional knowledge is causing a lack of interest among the students of core sciences to get a research project on Ayurvedic drugs for they know that they will not get patent on the innovation.
According to Anand Chaudhary of the department of rasa shastra, BHU, two months ago, the patent office had circulated the draft guidelines for patenting. The scientists and researchers in herbal sector at BHU are objecting the draft guidelines for patenting traditional knowledge and biological material issued by the Controller General of Patents Designs and Trademarks for which comments are solicited before March 15.
Jha said that in other countries, they do not consider Ayurvedic drugs as medicines until and unless a molecule from the drug is extracted and its action is studied and proved. “Our approach is holistic. Once a molecule is extracted from turmeric, neem or any other Ayurvedic product, it is no longer a subject of Ayurveda, but becomes a topic of other subjects. The major problem is here. Any new research in the field of Ayurveda is not considered a new research as it is considered as traditional knowledge,” he said.
The enthusiasm in the researchers had come to an end. In fact researchers from department of pharmachology, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-BHU), faculty of Ayurveda (IMS) and other departments have also been denied the patent for their new researches in the field of Ayurveda.
“In India, one can get patent on the shape and design of the container of the chawanprash, but any innovation in the chawanprash formulation and its preparation is not considered for patent. There are companies, which are applying for patent for design of spoons, containers, bottles and even packaging of the Ayurvedic drugs. If innovations, which meet the inventive criteria are not given protection under patent law, there will be further reduction in researches. Such inventive steps are already happening in various laboratories and universities, but are going in vain. We are hoping for the amendments in the Patent Act of India to improve researches in this field. The demand is not for patenting of what is already known but for the invention in the field with the help of science and technology,” said Chaudhary.
A variety of medicinal plant products developed using modern plant breeding techniques cannot be patented as per the Indian Patent law, but the process of developing such varieties can be protected through patents. Similar protection of extraction of active ingredients, product developments by using medicinal plants of Ayurveda and use of these with new purposes are patentable if they meet the standards of novelty, new invention and industrial applicability, he informed.
BHU faculty members have raised this issue in the congregation of academicians and experts held in different cities in June 2012 and February 2011. The matter was also discussed with the secretary, department of Ayush, Union ministry of health and family welfare.
Chaudhary said that earlier there were a number of injudicious patents. Researches in foreign countries used to get patent for the fact that turmeric heals wounds, medicinal uses of herbs and plants. On the other hand, these knowledge were known to India for thousands of years. India objected this trend and since there were no digitalised records of these knowledge, a traditional knowledge digital library (TKDL) was launched, which is a collaborative project between Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), ministry of science and technology and department of AYUSH. It involves documentation of literature related to Ayurveda and other traditional medicines. So far, it includes about 2.12 lakh medicinal formulations. Although TKDL is protecting us at the international level but a clause is necessary to boost research activities in Ayurveda.
What is Indian Patent Law
It says that an invention to be made patentable should involve an inventive step capable of industrial application. It should involve technical advances as compared to existing knowledge. [source] provided by DrAnand Chaudhary