Politics of Intellectual Property
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Politics of Intellectual Property

Contestation Over the Ownership, Use, and Control of Knowledge and Information

Edited by Sebastian Haunss and Kenneth C. Shadlen

This book offers empirical analyses of conflicts over the ownership, control, and use of knowledge and information in developed and developing countries.
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Chapter 5: Who Speaks for the Tribe? The Arogyapacha Case in Kerala

Sabil Francis


Sabil Francis1 Current attempts to ensure that indigenous people are given their rightful due in the intellectual property rights paradigm fail to address the actual impact of benefit sharing agreements on notions of identity, community, and the nation state. Do current narratives of intellectual property rights, by framing the question of IPR in an either/or manner, ignore the complexity of actors in the ownership of traditional knowledge and its dynamic nature? Is the idea of benefit sharing agreements itself rooted in a modern, Western-oriented approach? Can historically marginalized tribes become active players in the process of the commodification of knowledge, and adapt to a knowledge society that is marked by the owning, controlling and managing of knowledge? And finally, who speaks for indigenous people in a knowledge society? These are the key questions that this chapter will address. Previous research has investigated the link between intellectual property policy, innovation, trade and economic policy (for example, Helpman, 1993; Andersen, 2006; Hope, 2008; Cook, 2005; Karani and Ojwang, 1996; Etro, 2005) And though the literature on IPR is large, there has been a lack of focus on specific case studies that study the impact of efforts to accommodate differing conceptions of intellectual property rights within the existing paradigm, especially on tribes, non tribals, the state, the nation and the interaction between all these. At present, most of the literature is on the well-known case of the Hoodia cactus and Pfizer in South Africa (Dutfield, 2004: 52–5; Chennells, 2007; Moon, 2005) that...

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