The episode addressed issues surrounding India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), which aims to protect and preserve ancient medical knowledge in a database on the Internet. It is an attempt to stop individuals from taking out patents on medical practices they didn’t invent. The project raises questions about how to get western intellectual property law to recognize knowledge that is held by a collective group instead of a single inventor, and determining if patent law is even the right mechanism for sharing the wealth among the people who created the knowledge in the first place and the companies that wish to develop it.
“There’s a question whether intellectual property is in fact the solution or whether it’s the problem,” said Prof. de Beer, “and whether the real concerns are preserving a public domain or a common heritage of humankind, the misappropriation and unjust enrichment of the multinational companies who are deriving commercial benefits, or if the commercialization is okay and all we’re really concerned about is benefit sharing.” The answers to these questions, he suggested, will vary from community to community. “We can’t think of a one-size-fits-all solution, and we certainly don’t want to impose intellectual property as the solution.”
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