Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Yoga, Haldi, India - Signed, Sealed And Delivered

And, it is learnt that the US Patent and Trademark office has reportedly issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 trademarks on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga trademarks

In a story from the TOI yesterday the issuing of patents on Yoga asanas, ideas, knowledge to over enterprising NRI's in the US. The issue has touched off the right degree of incensed outrage in India considering the level of presumption assumed by the business yogis and the US patent and Trademark Office.

This is hardly a new issue. Bio-piracy of traditional Indian knowledge is a disturbing not so recent phenomenon. Basmati Rice the fragrant rice, a staple of Indian households no longer legally belongs to India or Pakistan. An American company Rice Tec owns the patent and therefore the product since 1997, as absurd as that sounds. The legal jousting is yet to begin here but there is hope for a sane outcome.

A previous patent, again by over opportunistic NRI's,on Tumeric was reversed but only after a contentious legal case. However, there still remain a list of other familiar traditional Indian medicinal herbs and plants that await a similar legal challenge as the article here outlines:

Two battles won indeed, but there are many ahead. London's Observer reported that there were more than 100 Indian plants awaiting grant at the US patent office. And patents have already have been granted to uses of Amla, Jar Amla, Anar, Salai, Dudhi, Gulmendhi, Bagbherenda, Karela, Rangoon-ki-bel, Erand, Vilayetishisham, Chamkura etc, all household Indian names.These need to be vacated.
Some other sharp perspectives available here Trebuchet MS Shiva outlines the inequities and insularity of the US patent office and the implicit biases of the WTO here. Shiva in this article also underlines the hypocrisy of Western powers decrying stolen intellectual property rights in film and software and the like while still not acknowledging the common practice of acquiring herbal medicinal knowledge of local indigenous populations without due credit . Suketu Mehta has written an incisive editorial on the yoga debacle.

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