Archive for April 2010
29 April 2010
The Draft Bill having provision for establishment of DNA Data Banks both at the National and State level was circulated to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Bureau of Police Research & Development, Central Bureau of Investigation, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), Planning Commission, Ministry of Finance, Department of Science and Technology, Ministry of Defence, Legislative Department, Ministry of Law & Justice, Directorate of Forensic Science. The comments have been obtained. The Draft Bill is being sent to all the States for their comments.
The comments received from the various Ministries/Departments have inter alia referred to the scope of the Draft Bill; provisions for confidentiality of information and penalties for misuse or abuse thereof; size, composition and tenure of members of the DNA Profiling Board, its powers and functions and administrative support therefore; data sharing between the National and State DNA Data Banks, approval norms for DNA Profiling laboratories; and procedures for expungement of records from the Data Bank.
Since the finalization of Draft Bill involves further consultation with the State Governments followed by Cabinet approval etc., no specific time frame can be indicated at this stage.
This was stated by Shri Prithviraj Chavan, the Minister of State (I/C) for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences in the Rajya Sabha today.
TKDL Prevents 13 Traditional Knowledge Patents
1. India joins hands with the US and UK to help prevent misappropriation of its traditional knowledge at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) and United Kingdom Trademark & Patent Office (UKPTO) with the signing of the TKDL (Traditional Knowledge Digital Library) Access Agreement with USPTO in November 2009, on the sidelines of the State visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister of India to the US and with UKPTO in January 2010. This TKDL Agreement with the US is the first-ever agreement signed in the area of science and technology during the visit of an Indian PM to the US.
2. TKDL Access Agreement has in-built safeguards on non-disclosure to protect India’s interest against any possible misuse. Under the agreement, the patent examiners at International Patent Offices can utlise the TKDL for patent search and examinations purposes only and cannot reveal the content to third party unless it is necessary for citation purposes.
3. Earlier, in February 2009, a similar TKDL Access Agreement was signed by India with the European Patent Office (EPO), making TKDL database available to their Patent Examiners (EPO having 34 member states) for establishing prior art, in case of patent applications based on Indian system of medicine.
4. Significant impact has already been realized at EPO during the last one year. Beginning July 2009, TKDL team has identified 36 patent applications at EPO which concern Indian systems of medicine and third party TKDL evidences have been filed at EPO. In two such cases EPO has already set aside its earlier intention to grant patents after it received TKDL evidence. In other eleven cases, applicants themselves decided to withdraw their four-to-five year old applications on being confronted with TKDL evidence. It is expected that in balance 23 cases, either EPO would reject these applications or applicants themselves would with draw their wrong claims/patent applications unless they are able to establish the novelty of their claims/applications.
The details of applications where EPO based on TKDL evidences decided to set aside its earlier intention to grant patents and details of applications filed at EPO where applicants themselves decided to withdraw their claims/patent application after they were confronted with TKDL evidence are attached in Annexure 1.
5. A recent study carried out by TKDL expert team has revealed a sharp decline (44%) on filing of patent applications concerning Indian systems of medicine, in particular, on the generic group on medicinal plants at EPO. Normally, on average, 80 such patent applications are being filed every year at EPO. About 25 get filed during October-December and 15-40 patents get granted yearly during this period. In contrast, during October-December 2009 only 14 applications got filed and no wrong patent was granted.
6. Misappropriation and bio-piracy are the issues of great concern for 130 developing countries and this agenda is being pursued at multilateral forums such as Convention on Biological Diversity, TRIPS Council at World Trade Organization and World Intellectual Property Organization. However, so far there has been no consensus on ensuring protection of traditional knowledge. It is for this reason, Mexico, only after more than 10 years of legal battle, was able to get the patent on Enola bean at USPTO cancelled on 10.7.2009. Similarly, cancellation on Monsonto Soybean patent happened on 6.7.2007 at EPO but after 13 years of legal battle, India is the only country in the world which has set up an institutional mechanism (TKDL) and is able to prevent grant of wrong patents in only few weeks of time through an e-mail and at zero cost, whereas other countries need to fight for 10-12 years and have to spend million of US dollars to meet legal and other expenses even for opposing a single patent.
7. TKDL, a collaborative project between CSIR and Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is a maiden Indian effort to help prevent misappropriation of traditional knowledge belonging to India at International Patent Offices. Its genesis dates back to the Indian effort on revocation of patent on wound healing properties of Turmeric at the USPTO and anti-fungal properties of Neem at EPO. Besides, in 2000, the TKDL expert group estimated that about 2000 wrong patents concerning Indian systems of medicine were being granted every year at international level, mainly due to the fact that India’s traditional medicine knowledge existed in languages such as Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Urdu, Tamil etc. and was neither accessible nor understood by patent examiners at the international patent offices.
8. TKDL has overcome these language and formal barriers by scientifically converting and structuring the available information contents in 30 million A4 size pages of the ancient texts into five international languages, namely, English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish, with the help of information technology tools and a novel classification system – Traditional Knowledge Resource Classification (TKRC). Today, India through TKDL is capable of protecting about two lakh (0.2 million) medical formulations similar to those of neem and turmeric. On an average, it takes five to seven years for opposing a granted patent at international level which may cost Rs. One to three crore (0.2-0.6 million US$) . One could only imagine the cost of protecting two lakh (0.2 million US$) medicinal formulations in the absence of TKDL.
9. TKDL is a proprietary and original database TKDL technology integrates diverse disciplines and languages such as Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Tamil, English, Japanese, Spanish, French, German, modern science & modern medicine. TKDL is based on 148 books of Indian Systems of Medicine, which are available at a cost of Rs. 50,000. These books are the prior art and can be sourced by any individual/organization at national/international level. TKDL acts as a bridge between these books and international patent examiners. It is the TKDL technology which has created a unique mechanism for a Sanskrit sloka to be read in German by an examiner at EPO or any other international Patent Offices on his computer screen.
10. These unique international agreements would have long-term implications on the protection of traditional knowledge and global intellectual property systems in view of the fact that in the past patents have been granted at EPO and USPTO on the use of over 200 medicinal plants due to the lack of access to the documented knowledge in public domain. Also, at any point in time, 40-50 patent applications based on Indian traditional knowledge are awaiting grant of patent………
28 April 2010
NEW DELHI: A Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) undertaking has objected to patent claims by Avesthagen Ltd, a Bangalore-based biotech firm, the first time an Indian company has been challenged for seeking rights over traditional cures.
Avesthagen had filed a patent application at the European Patent Office (EPO) for using Arjuna, a medicinal herb, as a tonic for treating obesity and diabetes in 2003.
The row could reignite the controversy over biotech companies trying to claim patent rights over herbal formulations known to traditional systems of Indian medicine such as Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani.
Avesthagen denied that it had been dissuaded from pursuing the patent.
The application “lapsed due to oversight and not due to any other reason” and the company is in the process of reinstating it, an Avesthagen spokesperson said in an email.
The application was challenged in 2009 by officials at the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), an initiative spearheaded by CSIR and the health ministry, which has compiled an online database of 148 books on Indian systems of medicine.
V.K. Gupta, director of TKDL, and head of CSIR’s IT (information technology) division, said he had informed EPO last July that Avesthagen’s claims were not novel and that Arjuna was well known to ancient systems of Indian medicine to be a cure for several ailments, including heart and obesity disorders.
CSIR said in a 26 April press statement that Avesthagen, among other firms, had “themselves decided to withdraw their application on being confronted with TKDL evidence”.
According to EPO rules, patent applicants must pay an annual renewal fee to keep their filings from lapsing.
The most recent communication on the issue that’s available on the EPO website is a 6 April notice by the patent examiner’s office that terms the firm’s application as “deemed to be withdrawn due to non-payment of renewal fee”.
Records also show that the company had paid application renewal fees every year since 2003, but hadn’t done so for 2009, the deadline for which was 31 August.
“It’s obvious they are letting the patent application lapse,” said Gupta in a phone conversation with Mint. “They’ve known of our objections since last July, but have not communicated anything to the patent office. They’ve diligently paid renewal fees every year except last year, till they learnt of our objections.”
To be sure, Avesthagen has a two-month window to reinstate its claims. EPO patent rules don’t oblige the company to respond to CSIR. Experts say the company has to justify the patentability of its application only if EPO so requires.
“Keeping a patent application alive for six years is expensive. So a company that has paid the lawyer fees, six years of renewal fees, has made substantial investments,” said Srividhya Ragavan, an intellectual property (IP) specialist and professor of law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. “It could well be that they are waiting for legal advice after CSIR posted their observations to the EPO. On the other hand, the long delay does raise speculation that they may be withdrawing their patent application. Also, a communication from a government agency is usually taken quite seriously.”
Companies that are unsure of the validity of their patent claims choose to withdraw their applications by terminating fee payments, said T.C. James, director of National Intellectual Property Organization.
“Usually, patent applicants stop paying fees if they are not confident of their patent application,” he said. “Rarely does a patent applicant explicitly say that they are withdrawing because they feel their patent is indefensible. However, the verdict is still unclear.”
TKDL, which contains around 30 million pages of text on traditional Indian formulations translated into English, Japanese, French, German and Spanish, has signed agreements with leading international patent offices such as EPO and the United States Patent and Trademark Office. This allows patent examiners in these countries to scan the texts and check if patent claims are indeed novel or a mere appropriation of formulations known to traditional India medicine.
In the past, India has got the US and Europe to revoke patents granted to American companies on the use of turmeric, neem and basmati rice.
TKDL has estimated that over 2,000 wrong patents concerning Indian systems of medicine were being annually granted, simply because India’s traditional knowledge has existed in languages such as Sanskrit, Arabic, Urdu and Tamil and was, therefore, inaccessible to international patent offices, CSIR said.
“We are confident that their claims cannot hold in the patent office. We wouldn’t challenge it in the first place if we had the slightest doubt,” said TKDL’s Gupta, referring to Avesthagen.
Avesthagen has around 450 patent applications in its IP portfolio. Among these proprietary technologies is ADept, an Indian medicinal plant resource that details more than 3,000 formulations mentioned in traditional Indian medicinal systems.
29 April 2010
KOLKATA: Vedanta Aluminium has signed an MoU with Orissa’s Institute of Mineral and Materials Technology (IMMT) to utilize expertise available within the state and to develop technology for recovering valuable materials from waste generated in alumina and aluminium industry.
The MoU was signed by Mukesh Kumar, COO, Vedanta Aluminium, and Prof. Barada Kanta Mishra, director, IMMT on Monday at Bhubaneswar. Dr Srikant Sharma, head of R&D Planning and other senior scientists of IMMT were present on the occasion.
Speaking on the occassion, Mukesh Kumar said its alumina refinery has already implemented zero discharge system and that the partnership with the research institute would “help us in realizing our vision to make the refinery a zero waste plant”. Red Mud generated from the alumina refinery is rich in titanium, vanadium, iron, etc and waste utilization would result in conservation of natural resources as well as reducing operating costs to a great extent, he added.
“The partnership between Vedanta and IMMT would further strengthen the interface between industry and institutions,” said Prof. Baradakanta Mishra, director, IMMT. He said the institute has already developed technologies like utilization of red mud in bricks/ tiles manufacturing, recovery of carbon value from spent pot lining and production of pig iron from red mud. “The association with Vedanta will definitely be a bench mark as IMMT is planning to concentrate more research in bauxite treatment as well as waste utilization as Orissa is one of the largest depositories of bauxite minerals having in excess of 1.5 billion tonnes,” he said.
Vedanta Aluminium will provide financial and other technological support and has presented a cheque of Rs 1 crore towards corpus fund for various R&D projects.
27 April 2010
GUWAHATI: A Delhi-based expert has suggested advancement of office hours instead of a separate time zone for the Northeast, adding to the debate on the raging issue.
P. Banerjee, head, time and frequency section at the National Physical Laboratory, New Delhi, today said the timings of government offices in the Northeast could be advanced for optimal use of daylight hours and that the region need not be placed in a separate time zone.
The senior official said the issue should be viewed in the overall perspective and not treated in an isolated manner only to suit the needs of the region.
“Keep your minds open,” Banerjee said while speaking at a seminar organised by Assam Science Technology and Environment Council (ASTEC) here today.
Filmmaker Jahnu Barua, who has been raising the voice for a separate time zone for the Northeast time and again, attended the seminar.
Banerjee said the advancement of the working hours of offices by an hour would be a more practicable strategy as this could be done by the state government through an administrative order. In fact, Banerjee’s view of advancing the timings of the offices found favour at the seminar with many supporting it.
The official also said time zones could not be introduced arbitrarily, as there were international conventions to be adhered to.
Filmmaker Barua said when a country functioned on a single standard time based on its mean longitude, the people who live on the west (of the mean longitude) were always in an advantageous position as they get to start their day earlier. This also helps them to utilise more daylight hours for productivity, he said.
Union minister of state for science and technology and earth sciences Prithviraj Chavan had said in Rajya Sabha on Thursday that the government had rejected the suggestion to introduce two time zones in the country………..
27 April 2010
HYDERABAD: Country-made computer, CABTOP, will hit the markets soon. Designed by a housewife, T Bhargavi, the CABTOP (Cabinet on Top), is a modified and simplifed version of the desktop computer. The allin- one unit is also portable, like a laptop.At a demo here on Monday, the inventor, Bhargavi, said, “I got the idea when I was cleaning my PC. With the support of my husband and other family members, I worked for more than a year to design it.” The CABTOP is available in three sizes and costs around Rs 22,000.“The Department of Science and Technology provided financial support to the project while the computer was made at Seelamce Company in Chittoor. It has been tested at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI), Durgapur, West Bengal,” she said.The CABTOP has a cabinet, SMPS (power supply system), TFT/LCD monitor, a multimedia system with TV card, SVideo card, AV card and DTH card and a DVD writer. The monitor with motherboard fixed behind will be attached to the cabinet which will have all the accessories………
26 April 2010
NEW DELHI: The Indian government has used a set of medieval Indian medicinal texts — the oldest from the 8th century AD — to block 14 patents on plant-based therapies filed in the European Patent Office (EPO).
The EPO has denied two patents to two companies, while 12 other applicants have withdrawn patents over the past year after India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) showed evidence that their claims were known in traditional medicine.
All the claims related to plant-based therapies — grape and apple juice as a tonic for the heart, a cocktail of opium, spinach and fenugreek to improve immunity, and other plant extracts to fight stress, diabetes, obesity, even ageing.
“They had to withdraw patent claims when confronted with evidence that these claims were based entirely on prior knowledge,” said Vinod Gupta, director of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), a repository created by the CSIR and the health ministry. The TKDL encapsulates information from 148 texts of Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha systems of medicine practised in India for centuries.
The TKDL represents India’s effort to prevent biopiracy of traditional knowledge through patent applications outside India. A patent has to involve innovation that is novel and non-obvious.
Over the past year, India has signed agreements with the EPO and patent offices in the US and UK, hoping patent examiners there will make use of the TKDL to avoid issuing patents on claims already present in traditional knowledge.
Earlier this month, a US-company, Jan Marini Skin Research Inc., withdrew its claim on plant extracts from Ashwagandha, Brahmi and turmeric, which it claimed could be used as anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory agents, Gupta said.
An 11th century Unani book called Al-Qanoon Fil Tib had recorded these effects.
Avesthagen, an Indian company, also withdrew its patent application with the EPO on the use of a plant called Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) as a cardiotonic and for therapy against obesity and diabetes.
A 15th century book of Ayurveda called Vrndamadhava lists these virtues of the Arjuna plant. A 9th century text called Kitaab-al-Hawi that mentions the use of opium, spinach and fenugreek for immunity was used to block an application from the UK.
Gupta estimates that the EPO has about 2,100 pending patent applications dealing with plant-based products. Among these, 221 appear to be based on plants known and used in Indian systems of medicine.
He said the TKDL had objected to 96 applications pending in the EPO. “We’re still trying to determine the number of patents pending in the US patents office which can be challenged through the TKDL,” he said.
Earlier this month, environmental activist Vandana Shiva, director of the non-government Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology, New Delhi, produced a list of more than 4,000 patents involving the use of plants known in traditional medicine granted by the US patents office. The patents have been filed by applications within and outside India.
Shiva said she was forced to compile the list after the CSIR’s TKDL division declined to share with her foundation information on suspect patents on plant-based products that the TKDL had itself compiled.
In the 1990s, the CSIR had successfully challenged a patent granted on the wound healing properties of turmeric in the US patents office, while Shiva had helped overturn a patent on neem after a prolonged legal battle.
The TKDL is expected to speed up the process of challenging patents.