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News: PFAF database to be used by AAAS to help protect indiginous knowledge

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  • webmaster@pfaf.org
    I thought folks might be like to know about an interesting email I recieved the other day. It has from the Senior Program Associate, from the American
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 21, 2001
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      I thought folks might be like to know about an interesting
      email I recieved the other day. It has from the Senior
      Program Associate, from the American Association for the
      Advancement of Science's Science and Human Rights Program.
      They are developing an online index of traditional ecological
      knowledge that is in the public domain.  A prototype of the
      index, TEK*PAD (Traditional
      Ecological Knowledge Prior Art Database) can be viewed at:
      http://ip.aaas.org/tekindex.nsf

      The idea behind TEK*PAD is to establish prior knowledge
      about plant uses, this will be useful to help ensure that
      information about traditional plant uses remains in the public
      domain and is protected from pattent applications.

      Well they are intrested in including the PFAF database in their
      project. It is great to know that our PFAF will
      be able to help in such an important project.

      I've included details from their website below.

      ttfn

      Rich

      -----------------------------------------------------------
      From http://ip.aaas.org/tekindex.nsf

      Traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) describes those aspects of
      indigenous knowledge systems relating to the use, management and
      conservation of the environment and natural resources. Ethnobotany,
      or the knowledge, classification, properties, cultivation, and uses
      of specific plants, is an important component of TEK. Once,
      ethnobotany was the major source of new pharmaceuticals. In the 20th
      century, however, new sources for antibiotics, including soil
      cultures and advances in molecular pharmacology, led to a decline in
      the importance of ethnobotany in drug discovery programs. However,
      the pendulum is quickly swinging back, as interest in natural product
      research has been rekindled by discoveries of potent new
      chemotherapeutic agents from plants (such as turmeric and taxol). As
      interest in ethnobotany is rekindled, indigenous knowledge of the
      cultivation and application of botanical resources is becoming
      exploited on a grand scale.

      Intellectual property rights (IPRs) are intended to protect the moral
      and material interests of an individual resulting from any
      scientific, literary or artistic production of which he or she is the
      author. Perhaps the best-known form of IPRs is the patent. Patents
      are contrary to the nature of the public domain and indigenous
      knowledge, as they vest exclusive, proprietary ownership rights over
      the patented subject matter. This means the patent holder has the
      right to exclude anyone else from using, making, and selling the
      patented subject matter for a certain period of time.

      Patents are often ineffective in protecting indigenous knowledge.
      Much indigenous knowledge and technology is shared orally and
      therefore not documented, limited to selected individuals in a
      community, or simply taken for granted and considered public domain
      in nature already. Even when indigenous peoples are able to satisfy
      the requirements for a patent, they still face the prohibitive costs
      of registering, maintaining and defending the patents. The financial
      costs involved in maintaining and defending patents may also present
      a formidable barrier to effective protection of indigenous knowledge.
      The result is that holders of indigenous knowledge take no preemptive
      measures in any form to protect against the improper use or
      exploitation of their knowledge.

      The validity of a patent application is considered by examining the
      prior art base in order to determine whether the invention was known
      or used by others, or patented or described in a printed publication
      in this or a foreign country, more than one year prior to the
      application for patent was filed. "Defensive disclosures," by
      describing information in a printed publication or other publicly
      accessible medium, places it in the public domain. This also
      establishes it as prior art and ensures recognition of its origins,
      fosters its sharing and use, and potentially impedes patent
      applications based on this information.
      In the past, defensive disclosures were limited to traditional
      publication methods (books, journals, etc.) and were often
      copyrighted. Recently, the United States Patent and Trademark Office
      (USPTO) stated that electronic publications, including on-line
      databases and other types of Internet publications, are considered to
      be a "printed publications" within the scope of prior art and/or the
      public domain. Currently, anything in the public domain is given
      equal weight by the USPTO in its consideration of prior art.

      Working with the growing amount of information that is already in the
      public domain, TEK*PAD is an index and search engine of existing
      Internet-based, public domain documentation concerning indigenous
      knowledge and plant species uses (Traditional Ecological Knowledge
      Prior Art Database, or TEK*PAD). The unique value of this system is
      that it brings together and archives in a single resource, the
      various types of public domain data necessary to establish prior art.
      Data includes taxonomic and other species data, ethnobotanical uses,
      scientific and medical articles and abstracts, as well as patent
      applications themselves. It is meant to be used by anyone researching
      traditional ecological knowledge, including scientists, health
      professionals, and those involved in the patent application process
      itself.
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