India’s Memo To the World: Stop Trying to Steal Our Traditions!

I don’t know about you, but if I were 9,000 years old and then discovered a 230-year-old pipsqueak was stealing all of my cultivated traditions and cultures, I would be supremely annoyed. This is exactly how India feels about the United States (along with other innovation snatching nations) adapting their ideas as their own. Not everything was meant to be westernized, and India is putting their ancient foot down with a new database-driven patenting system designed to outwit the copyright infringement running amuck throughout the world.

From medicinal rituals to modern-day yoga, India is attempting to lock away access to cultures and activities practiced throughout the world, yet no-doubt indigenous to the region.
Mess with India, Mess with Their 3-Headed Lion Emblem. Rawr!Mess with India, Mess with Their 3-Headed Lion Emblem. Rawr!

The database will be created in five languages – English, German, French, Spanish and Japenese – to help prevent authorities from wrongfully giving patents of Indian-born ideas to other nationalities.

The database will be offered to further patent offices as long as all information found on it is kept strictly confidential. Right now, India is targeting the U.S. first and foremost, as this is where most legal battles over patents have been centered.

Yoga is, not surprisingly, causing the biggest intellectual bickering match, as the United States has patented countless yoga accessories and trademarks, while all credit should to to yoga’s roots undisputingly found in India.

The innovative database will help confirm the over 7000 patents on the list that can be credited back to indigenous Indian creativity and mind power.


Tamara Warta
Asian Innovation
Inventor Spot

Nov 6, 2007
by Robert Seddon (not verified)

Negative or positive claim of ownership?

If you were 9000 years old you'd predate the invention of patents by millennia, and since patents are by convention temporary monopolies they'd have expired anyway. This is a 'prior art' thing: if an invention has already been in existence for ages, there's no reason to award a patent. The second part of your article suggests (as does the source article) that the beneft won't be so much to India, for which it seems to be a matter of just recognition and national/cultural pride, as for anyone who would otherwise have been less able to make use of traditional knowledge because of the monopoly restrictions inherent in patenting.

The first part, on the other hand, suggests that India intends to 'lock away access' to things that weren't 'meant to be westernized', which sounds more like the claiming of an exclusive monopoly than the undermining of others', but your final paragraph seems to say only that India wishes to confirm the propriety of its existing patents. There are cases of the traditional knowledge of various cultures being claimed as intellectual property - controversial cases, since modern IP regimes are tailored to definite authorship and time-limited monopoly privileges, not communally posessed knowledge of considerable antiquity - but it's not clear to me whether this is one of them; the commentators quoted in the source article seemed to be talking across purposes too.

Nov 6, 2007
by Sarah O
Sarah O's picture

Thank you for this article,

Thank you for this article, and for working to bring this issue to public consciousness. I think it's far better for India to get on the patent train and "mark its territory," so to speak, before some Westerner attempts to credit themselves with "inventing" traditions and healing methods that are thousands of years old. Let's give credit where it's due. Kudos.

Nov 8, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

The ' 3-Headed Lion Emblem'

The ' 3-Headed Lion Emblem' you refer to is actually consist of 4 lions. It's taken from the famous Ashoka pillars that were erected all around India. Ashoka was a Buddhist king.

Sep 9, 2008
by Anonymous

India Steals Intellectual Property

The theft I have witnessed by India developers regarding intellectual property in the form of programming code is much worse.

As far as I am concerned, India is a third world country that doesn't have much to offer the world in the realm of culture. Their ideas are backwards and they still follow the cast system to this day, although they will try to deny it.

I have visited Hyderabad and I can safely say that India is the armpit of the world, or perhaps the anal cavity.

Let them build their library of BS. As a westerner it will mean nothing to me, or our patent offices for that matter.