Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 33: Using intellectual property rules to support the self-determination goals of indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as the manifestations of their sciences, technologies and cultures, including human and genetic resources, seeds, medicines, knowledge of the properties of fauna and flora, oral traditions, literatures, designs, sports and traditional games and visual and performing arts. They also have the right to maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property over such cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. The above Article from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is a statement of self-determination goals. Article 3 of UNDRIP provides an overarching goal of self-determinationand Article 31 is a detailed branch of that goal. It arose because the protection of the knowledge assets of indigenous peoples receives thin, if any, legal recognition let alone effective protection, while the knowledge assets of industrialised economies are strongly protected through international intellectual property minimum standards of protection. UNDRIP is not a binding treaty. As its name indicates it is a declaration, however, it captures the heart of what might be called the international problem of the inadequate protection of traditional knowledge. The kind of aspirations that Article 31 of UNDRIP expresses are an attempt to address the imbalance between the protection of intellectual property such as patents, copyright and trademarks, and the lack of protection of traditional knowledge.
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