India protects traditional medicines from patents

Two thousand patents have been issued for Indian traditional medicines Copyright: Flickr/skasuga

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To prevent foreign companies from patenting indigenous medicine, the Indian government has made 200,000 traditional medicines "public property" — available for anyone to use but no one to sell as a brand.

Indian authorities have become concerned about the growing practice of foreign companies patenting medicinal plants and other components of traditional medicine systems. Five thousand patents for traditional medicines have been issued in global trademark offices, 2,000 of which belong to the Indian ayurveda, unani and siddha systems of medicine.

The 200,000 medicines are listed in the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, which took 200 researchers eight years to compile by translating ancient Indian texts. The European Patent Office will now use the database to check that patent applications from companies are valid.

India has long faced attempts to patent its traditional remedies. It spent US$5 million fighting patents taken out on the spice turmeric and the Indian tree neem — a battle that took ten years.

Link to full article in The Guardian