Table of Contents

Indigenous Intellectual Property

Indigenous Intellectual Property

A Handbook of Contemporary Research

Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series

Edited by Matthew Rimmer

This Handbook considers the international struggle to provide for proper and just protection of Indigenous intellectual property. Leading scholars consider legal and policy controversies over Indigenous knowledge in the fields of international law, copyright law, trademark law, patent law, trade secrets law, and cultural heritage. This collection examines national developments in Indigenous intellectual property from around the world. As well as examining the historical origins of conflicts over Indigenous knowledge, the volume examines new challenges to Indigenous intellectual property from emerging developments in information technology, biotechnology, and climate change.

Chapter 1: The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: a human rights framework for intellectual property rights

Mauro Barelli

Subjects: law - academic, cultural heritage and art law, human rights, intellectual property law


After more than 20 years of negotiations and confrontations in various United Nations (UN) human rights fora, in September 2007 the world’s Indigenous peoples could celebrate the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007, a historic document which reflects the legal regime concerning Indigenous rights at the international level. The question of culture enjoys a prominent position in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007. Indeed it is precisely the cultural distinctiveness of Indigenous peoples – coupled with their willingness to preserve it – that makes them particularly different from other sub-State groups. Emphasising the fact that Indigenous peoples’ culture has both an encompassing and spiritual significance, the concept of ‘cultural heritage’ has often been used to refer to everything that belongs to the distinct identity of an Indigenous people. Cultural heritage is closely connected with the history, culture and identity of an Indigenous people and manifests itself in various domains, including traditional knowledge and practices, literary works, musical expressions, performances, rituals and social practices; it is transmitted from generation to generation, and is constantly recreated by Indigenous peoples in response to changes in their environment and their interaction with nature as well as their history.