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 9: Indigenous cultural expression and registered designs

Maree Sainsbury

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


Industrial design is an important and commercially valuable aspect of a product. It is a vital part of what makes a product appealing to a consumer and increases its marketability. The use of Indigenous designs appeals to a market, and thus has a commercial value. The challenge of the law is to ensure that where Indigenous cultural expressions are incorporated into a product this only occurs with prior informed consent, and that all who have contributed to the commercial value have the opportunity to share in it. This chapter looks at how the registered design system may play a role in meeting that challenge. It examines the interface between design protection and Indigenous designs. Some suggestions for improvement will be made which will have the effect of making protection of designs more accessible and building in some safeguards to minimise the exploitation of traditional cultural expression. Most Indigenous designs will come within the concept of traditional cultural expression. Traditional cultural expression is defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization to include music, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives. The notion of design has a variety of meanings.

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