jueves, mayo 24, 2007

Apropiación Intelectual

Hace unos días el IHT publicó un excelente artículo de Suketu Mehta sobre algunos dilemas que plantea la propiedad intelectual para la India.

A raíz de las patentes sobre técnicas de yoga que se están otorgando en Estados Unidos el autor se pregunta si es posible patentar la sabiduría popular. El gobierno indio, para no quedarse atrás, busca registrar y patentar cada elemento de su cultura milenaria. Asimismo, el artículo vincula el uso comunitario del conocimiento que rige históricamente en la India con la proliferación de la piratería en el país.

Dejo algunos fragmentos, pero vale la pena leerlo de punta a punta:
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories, and 2,315 yoga trademarks.

The Indian government is not laughing. It has set up a task force that is cataloging traditional knowledge, including ayurvedic remedies and hundreds of yoga poses, to protect them from being pirated and copyrighted by foreign hucksters.

It is worth noting that the people in the forefront of the patenting of traditional Indian wisdom are Indians, mostly overseas.

Knowledge in ancient India was protected by caste lines, not legal or economic ones. The term "intellectual property" was an oxymoron: the intellect could not be anybody's property. Perhaps it is for this reason that Indians do not feel obligated to pay for knowledge.

Western pharmaceutical companies make billions on drugs that are often first discovered in developing countries. But herbal remedies like bitter gourd or turmeric, which are known to be effective against everything from diabetes to piles, earn nothing for the country whose sages first isolated their virtues. The Indian government estimates that worldwide, 2,000 patents are issued a year based on traditional Indian medicines.

Drugs and hatha yoga have the same aim: to help us lead healthier lives. India has given the world yoga for free. No wonder so many in the country feel that the world should return the favor by making lifesaving drugs available at reduced prices, or at least letting Indian companies make cheap generics. If the lotus position belongs to all mankind, so should the formula for Gleevec, the leukemia drug over whose patent a Swiss pharmaceuticals company is suing the Indian government.

There's more at stake than just the money. There is also the perception that the world trading system is unfair, that the deck is stacked against developing countries. If the copying of Western drugs is illegal, so should be the patenting of yoga. It is also intellectual piracy, stood on its head.

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