The Protection of Traditional Knowledge: Towards a Cross-Cultural Dialogue on Intellectual Property Rights

This article revisits the debate over the suitability of using conventional intellectual property rights to protect indigenous knowledge. It notes that attempts to reconcile formal intellectual property rights with indigenous knowledge are unsatisfactory, hence the search for sui generis intellectual property options. Suggestions for such options are based on formal intellectual property rights addressing only the bureaucratic, procedural and other peripheral matters. This approach ignores the narrow epistemic confines through which conventional intellectual property law reifies Western scientific narrative to the exclusion of indigenous ways of knowing. This application of the patent regime in the traditional medicine context illustrates this point. In order to realistically address the indigenous knowledge question within the intellectual property framework, the article explores the emerging cross-cultural discourse on intellectual property rights. The cross-cultural project spotlights indigenous jurisprudence and customary protocol on knowledge protection. It is premised on the realization that all cultures have knowledge protection protocols. The thrust of the cross-cultural inquiry is local. Critically appraised, however, it does not pose significant conflict with the present global focus of intellectual property.

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Oguamanam, Chidi, The Protection of Traditional Knowledge: Towards a Cross-Cultural Dialogue on Intellectual Property Rights (Feb 2004). 15 Australian Intellectual Property Journal 1 (2004) 34-59.

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