Home / Politics / News /  Kerala to introduce intellectual property rights as a subject

Mumbai: After becoming the first in the country to introduce a state-level policy on intellectual property rights (IPR), the Kerala government is moving to introduce IPR as a compulsory subject in schools and universities.

The government has already directed universities to include IPR law and implementation in the syllabus at the degree level from the next academic year. The move is aimed at motivating students to take up a career in patents and their protection.

“The state will initially start five or six centres of excellence to provide degree-level classes to students in all five universities, and faculty will be provided in the universities and its affiliated institutions over a period of time," said a senior official in the state education ministry who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

Kerala introduced the IPR policy this year mainly to prevent misappropriation of traditional knowledge such as Ayurveda, the ancient Indian system of medicine, and knowledge associated with bio-diversity.

Kerala law minister M. Vijayakumar said in June that the IPR policy was the first step towards making the state “IP savvy." The state plans to form a body under the law department called “Mission IPR" to oversee patent rights administration.

The policy outlines the state’s concern about protecting its wealth of knowledge comprising tribal medicines, Ayurveda practices and bio-diversity.

“Unlike other knowledge categories, which are mostly deciphered in books or embedded in the biological system, this kind of knowledge attributes to and forms the basis of livelihoods of many traditional knowledge practitioners, and hence the absence of any legal property rights on such knowledge may render an opportunity for the private appropriation of the traditional knowledge by corporates," the policy document said.

Kerala had in the past lost several of its traditional knowledge rights on healthcare, food and food supplements, as well as on designs and cultural properties, because the original inventors or communities that inherited the knowledge over generations were not supported by the government.

Losing the trademark rights on Jeevani tea and nutritional supplements to the US-based NutriScience Inc. is a recent example. Jeevani, a health drink with high medicinal value, was developed by the state-owned Tropical Botanical Garden and Research Institute (TBGRI), based on traditional knowledge inherited by tribals in Agastya hills on the Western Ghats.

The state could not patent the extraction technology either due to lack of adequate policy mechanism.

“The Kerala government’s move to include IPR in general education will also help overcome the severe shortage of professionals in the field of intellectual property rights and related areas in the country," says R.S. Praveen Raj, a scientist at the Intellectual Property Management and Technology Transfer office, National Institute for Interdisciplinary Science and Technology, who played a key role in drafting the state policy.

As reported earlier by Mint, the country is currently facing a dearth of IPR professionals.

India’s four understaffed patent offices have been swamped by national and international patent applications. Several management institutions that offer specialized courses in intellectual property are also facing a shortage of faculty.

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