Innovation, Ownership, and Resistance
The chapter opens with the history of the sharing and stealing of biological knowledge between India and the West including the story of how the drug reserpine made its way from practitioners of ayurvedic medicine to Novartis’ patent portfolio. The chapter then moves to a discussion of how ayurvedic medicine fits, and does not fit, the requirements of patent law using the perspectives of ayurvedic practitioners and manufacturers I interviewed. Modern patent law leaves ayurvedic medical knowledge unprotected because ayurvedic doctors use plant materials and do not isolate active chemical ingredients that may exist in these materials and also because ayurvedic practice is believed to be communal and traditional and not based on individual invention. I also show how ayurvedic doctors and producers of ayurvedic pharmaceuticals have developed diverse responses to the new regime including efforts to create proprietary ayurvedic drugs and compile their knowledge in a digital library.
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