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:
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.
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