Thiruvananthapuram The Protection of Traditional Knowledge Bill, 2022 (Traditional Knowledge Bill) presented in the Lok Sabha on April 1 by Shashi Tharoor, Congress leader and MP , stipulates that traditional knowledge (TK) is beyond the realm of a patent or intellectual property regime.

“TK is neither an innovation nor held by any single person. Rather it is passed down and refined over several generations and thus may not be considered as ‘intellectual property,” the Bill unequivocally states.

Livelihood, identity

RS Praveen Raj, Principal Scientist-IP Management and Technology Transfer, CSIR-NIIST, Thiruvananthapuram, who drafted the Bill for Tharoor, says many custodians still rely on traditional knowledge (TK) for their livelihood and identity. Hence, misappropriation of TK severely prejudices their interests.

Patenting and intellectual property protection grants ownership and exclusive rights of use over innovative knowledge. There have already been several attempts to acquire such exclusive protections over India’s TK, which is a gross injustice.

This Bill moots a non-IPR kind of protection, with no proprietary rights envisaged providing for in-situ protection, preservation, promotion and sustainable development of TK and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Preventing misuse of TK

“The Bill attempts to prevent misuse of traditional knowledge, promote its enrichment by any person even outside of its custodian while ensuring that the benefits reach all stakeholders down the line,” Praveen Raj pointed out.

The Bill does not intend to create any rights, but recognises traditional knowledge holders/communities as custodians of TK, while the ownership is attributed to the States/Union Territories (deemed ownership).

If a particular TK is practiced in many States or Union territories, then the respective Governments shall be deemed to have joint ownership and equal and undivided share on any claim or interests in that traditional knowledge.

Union has absolute right

In short, the Bill recognises the complete and absolute right of the Union of India over the entire gamut of TK that exists within its national territory and seeks to reward indigenous communities, its custodians, by giving certain licensing rights (deemed license), including the right to self-determination.

TK holders/communities will be recognised as custodians only after they register a ‘knowledge society’ according to the laws of the country. They should also apply for recognition by the appropriate Government, the ‘deemed owner’ of the TK.

Knowledge society

A knowledge society is defined in the Bill as a group of people or family, whether indigenous, tribal or otherwise, residing within the boundaries of the national territory, who may be identified as a separate group from other groups or other members of the society by reason of their exclusive association with one or more forms of traditional knowledge:

Such groups of people or family shall constitute itself as a legal entity such as trust, society or company other than large enterprise but including a company under sub-section (62) of section 2 of the Companies Act, 2013 and is constituted specifically and exclusively for managing commercial and non-commercial use of one or more forms of TK.

The Bill also proposes administrative frameworks such as the National Authority on Traditional Knowledge and State Boards to manage traditional knowledge.