Research Handbooks in Intellectual Property series
Edited by Christophe Geiger
Chapter 34: Human rights perspective on protection of traditional knowledge and intellectual property: A view from island states in the Pacific
There is pressure from the developed world and indeed from within the under-developed/developing world to put in place intellectual property (IP) regimes which are primarily driven or informed by commercial imperatives and which in turn are predominantly based on Anglo-American or Western-centric models of IP rights, economic values and social organisation. These regimes however, do little to accommodate indigenous approaches to traditional knowledge (TK), forms of cultural expression or what might in Western language be referred to as ‘IP’, despite the fact that there are frameworks of rights which suggest that these forms of property are deserving of respect and protection. In this context, although there are no agreed or fixed definitions of TK, this is understood as: the totality of all knowledge and practices, whether explicit or implicit, used in the management of socio-economic and ecological facets of life. This knowledge is established on past experiences and observation. It is usually a collective property of a society. Many members of the particular society contribute to it over time […] it is modified and enlarged as it is used […] [it] is transmitted from generation to generation. In the Pacific, as elsewhere, this TK pervades many aspects of daily life, from food preparation and cultivation to house building and the carving of canoes, from using the medicinal properties of plants to designing and weaving mats and beyond.
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