International Intellectual Property
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International Intellectual Property

A Handbook of Contemporary Research

Edited by Daniel J. Gervais

International Intellectual Property: A Handbook of Contemporary Research provides researchers and practitioners of international intellectual property law with the necessary tools to understand the latest debates in this incredibly dynamic and complex field. The book contains both doctrinal analyses and groundbreaking theoretical research by many of the most recognized leading experts in the field. It offers overviews of the major international instruments, with specific chapters on the Berne and Paris Conventions, the Patent Cooperation treaty and several chapters that discuss parts of the TRIPS Agreement. The book can also be used by students of international intellectual property to obtain useful knowledge of major institutions and instruments, and to gain an understanding of ongoing discussions.
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Chapter 7: Traditional knowledge and innovation as a global concern

Susy Frankel


Worldwide, many countries and indigenous peoples have raised concerns over how creators and inventors make use of, frequently without consent, their traditional knowledge and then obtain intellectual property rights relating to those uses. The problem is that those whose knowledge and cultural objects are used most often are not properly acknowledged and derive no economic benefit from such uses. This situation is justified on the basis that the knowledge and cultural products (where they exist) are in the so-called public domain. In other words, the knowledge and its manifestations are free from legal constraints over their use. The fact that there is no definitive agreement over the contours, or indeed the cultural norms, behind the public domain appears not to be a deterrent to those who assert that much traditional knowledge is or should be in the public domain. As the public domain is the arena from which the difficulties of not protecting traditional knowledge arise, consequently a discussion of the public domain is both where this chapter begins and also where it will end. A common theme that those who seek protection of traditional knowledge articulate is their relationship with the knowledge and its uses. This includes their role as holders, and sometimes users, of the knowledge on behalf of others. This might be described as a guardianship role. Accordingly this chapter uses the phrase “knowledge guardians”.

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