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 22: Traditional knowledge governance challenges in Canada

Jeremy de Beer and Daniel Dylan

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


Creating appropriate policies for governing the knowledge of the world’s Indigenous and local communities is a tremendous challenge. Just conceptualizing Indigenous communities’ knowledge is difficult, and often controversial. Communities themselves do not typically differentiate categorically among traditional medicinal, ecological or cultural practices, resources or expressions. Yet those are the terms in which most debate takes place in relevant international and national forums. Article 31 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 states that Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop a very wide variety of heritage, knowledge, expressions and intellectual property over such heritage, knowledge and expressions. States must work with Indigenous peoples to effectively recognize and protect the exercise of these rights. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007 is not the only legal instrument recognizing Indigenous peoples’ right to protect heritage, knowledge and expressions. A protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity addressing access and benefit sharing is limited to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources generally. Parallel provisions exist in a separate agreement to deal with traditional knowledge concerning plant genetic resources used for food and agriculture. Also separately, model laws and legislative provisions exist to guide countries wishing to protect traditional cultural expressions and folklore. An inter-governmental committee of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has tried to tackle several of these issues together, but efforts have so far failed to yield success.

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