It is commonly accepted that as the primary mechanism for allocating rights over knowledge, western conventional intellectual property rights inadequately addresses the unique challenges of protecting traditional and indigenous knowledge. There is general consensus that a sui generis regime is needed to protect indigenous knowledge within the conventional IP system. An acceptable sui generis mechanism must reflect the unique epistemology and world view of indigenous peoples, as ways of knowing are connected with ways of protecting, transmitting, legitimizing and evaluating knowledge. This article discusses traditional knowledge and the patent regime to highlight elements of the debate surrounding the use of conventional intellectual property rights to protect traditional knowledge. It explores the inadequacies of the current intellectual property rights approach, and current efforts to integrate indigenous knowledge-protection protocols into the system. The author discusses existing indigenous and non-Western knowledge-protection schemes. The article examines how the emphasis on protecting localized traditional knowledge within national jurisdictions poses a potential conflict with attempts to create a global intellectual property framework. Part of the globalization process also entails accommodating epistemological pluralism: creating an intellectual property system that protects knowledge created from peoples’ diverse ways of knowing.
Oguamanam, Chidi, Localizing Intellectual Property in the Globalization Epoch: The Integration of Indigenous Knowledge (2004). Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2004.