As per World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Traditional Knowledge is knowledge, know-how, skills and practices that are developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation within a community, often forming part of its cultural or spiritual identity.
The use of turmeric by Indian can be seen way back since nearly 4000 years, as per the Vedic culture of India. It can be seen from various Vedas that the turmeric was used for many purposes such as for dying purpose, food ingredient, as medicine, as a culinary spice and for some of the religious purposes.
In 1995, the United States awarded a patent on turmeric to University of Mississippi medical centre for wound healing property. The claimed subject matter was issued specifically for use of turmeric powder, both oral as well as topically for wound healing. This patent also granted them the exclusive right to sell and distribute turmeric. In the year 1996, The Indian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) had objected the patent granted and provided documented evidence of the prior art to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Though it was a well-known fact that the use of turmeric was known in every household since ages in India, it was a herculean task to find published information on the use of turmeric powder through various granths and written books that India is using turmeric since ages for wound healing and many other purposes. Several extensive researches have been done; around 32 references were located in different languages namely Sanskrit, Urdu and Hindi. The United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) after verifying all the facts given by CSIR, revoked the patent in the year 1997 (nearly after two years of granting the patent) and agreed that the use of turmeric was an old art of healing wounds. Hence, the traditional knowledge that belonged to India was safeguarded / protected in Turmeric case.
Written By: Ms. Mitali Bhatt, Final Year Law Student, Jitendra Chauhan College of Law, Law Intern at S. Bhambri & Associates (Advocates), Delhi.