Monday, June 30, 2008

"Knowledge Commons" Proposal in Kerala

This article in the Hindu yesterday, was brought to my attention. What does this mean from the lokavidya perspective? On the one hand, recognizing people's knowledge to be a commons and setting up legal protections for it against corporate use, seems a step in the right direction. On the other hand, after saying that this knowledge is part of "knowledge commons" and not in the public domain, the article also says "While community or family custodians will have rights to knowledge that belonged to them, the rest of the traditional knowledge will belong to Kerala State." which contradicts the earlier part.

IPRs policy proposes 'knowledge commons'
AUTHOR: Roy Mathew
PUBLICATION: The Hindu (India)DATE: 28 June 2008URL:
Thiruvananthapuram: The Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) Policy for Kerala, released by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan here on Friday,puts forth the concept of 'knowledge commons' and 'commons licence' for traditional knowledge. The policy says that all traditional knowledge, including traditional medicine, must belong to the domain of "knowledge commons" and not to public domain. The system should be introduced through legal arrangements. While community or family custodians will have rights to knowledge that belonged to them, the rest of the traditional knowledge will belong to Kerala State. No entity registered as a medium or large enterprise may be deemed to have any rights over traditional knowledge. Any community or family custodian of traditional knowledge would have to register as knowledge-practitioner with the Kerala Traditional Knowledge Authority proposed by the policy. All rights holders of traditional knowledge will be deemed to be holding their rights under a 'commons licence'. Under this licence, the rightholder permits others the use of the knowledge for non-commercial purposes. If any development is made using that knowledge, it will haveto be put back into the 'knowledge commons' and cannot be patented anywhere. For commercial use by others, an agreement would have to bereached with the rights holder. In the case of rights held by the State, all actual practitioners of knowledge would have automatic rights for commercial use provided that they are not medium or large enterprises.
Mandatory provision
The policy proposes that the State should make it mandatory for all applications from foreigners to the National Biodiversity Authority for making use of traditional knowledge of Kerala to be referred to the State Biodiversity Board. A similar mechanism should be put in place against misappropriation of knowledge by Indian corporates also. The Board will ensure that traditional knowledge and development based on them remained within the realm of 'knowledge commons.' Commercial use of biological resources of the State by foreigners will have to be referred to the State Biodiversity Board besides the National Biodiversity Board. The policy lays down that the functions of the Knowledge Authority and the State Biodiversity Board should be supervised by a specialised governmental body called the Supervisory Council on Intellectual Property under the Chairmanship of the Chief Minister.
Policy on patents
The policy also specifies that patents taken out on research output by State government research institutions funded by private or foreign sources should be in the domain of 'commons.' In the case of research funded by the government, the government will decide whether the output should be placed under 'commons.' When the Union government or other official agencies fund projects, the status of output would be decidedin advance on a case by case basis. That will also need the approval of the Supervisory Council. S.P. Shukla, former Chief Negotiator of India at the Uruguay Round, who received the copy of the policy from the Chief Minister at a formal function, said that the commons concept would ensure that the incentivesfor research would not lead to proliferation of proprietary rights.

Other related links:
"Kerala unveils intellectual property rights policy", ThaindianNews, Thiruvananthapuram, 27 June 2008.
"Kerala's IPR policy", Spicy IP, 26 June 2008
Press Trust of India, "Kerala govt. approves IPR policy", The Hindu, 31May 2008.
Government of Kerala, "Draft intellectual property rights policy forKerala", 2007. (to be updated soon withfinal text)
Kerala State Biodiversity Board

No comments: