Globalization has made it easier for companies in wealthy countries to take advantage of poor countries by filing patents for crops, medicines and chemicals that traditional cultures have been cultivating and using for centuries. This year, the poor countries have figured out a way to fight back: they are creating digital libraries for their ancient cultural knowledge.

India, probably the largest victim, is cataloging its traditional knowledge on a protected Web site and on DVD’s it will send to patent examiners worldwide. The next time someone proposes patenting the use of a traditional Indian herb or spice for a particular medicinal purpose, examiners will be able to see if Indian Ayurvedic medicine described the process centuries ago.