Protection of Tribal/Indigenous Knowledge

Traditional Knowledge and IP: Quiz
World Intellectual Property Organization
Take this quick and enlightening quiz about your knowledge of intellectual property issues in the world.

Protecting indigenous knowledge: a personal perspective on international negotiations at WIPO
By: Wen Wendland
WIPO Magazine
December 2019
Keywords: Intellectual property, genetic resources, traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions
Member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization have been conducting formal negotiations for ten years in an effort to establish international legal instruments aimed at protecting intellectual property, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. Much of the progress to date has been in the areas of rules and procedures by which the Intergovernmental Committee will function. The committee will be working under a renewed mandate for 2020-2021 and observers and members are hopeful that meaningful outcomes will eventually result. However, this issue has not received much attention from the public, thus little outside pressure has been applied to the committee to produce substantive outcomes.

A New Bill Could Help Protect the Sacred Seeds of Indigenous People
By: Gosia Wozniacka
Civil Eats
Oct. 9, 2019
Keywords: Agriculture, corn, seeds, genetic diversity
Native seed stocks are threatened by hybrid and genetically engineered seeds. Native seeds are not protected by federal law like commercial seeds. Indigenous farmers are working together to protect crop diversity and maintain their traditions of food production.

Tribal Data Governance and Informational Privacy: "Constructing "Indigenous Data Sovereignty"
By: Rebecca Tsosie
Montana Law Review
August 1, 2019
Key words: Data sovereignty, data governance, jurisdiction, sensitive information, tribal customary law, shared resource, legal rights, indigenous research methodologies
This article discusses issues with many sorts of data collected by agencies and governments, which have different perspectives on data, its use and sharing. While not specifically about traditional ecological knowledge, this paper will provide the reader with a better understanding of the issues tribes face when being asked by researchers for data.

Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore: Fortieth Session

By: WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)

April 2019
Key words: Folklore, protecting rights, traditional knowledge, definitions, intellectual property, genetic resources
This article put out by WIPO discusses the definitions of words that are commonly used in research, policies, and laws regarding traditional knowledge, folklore, intellectual property, and genetic resources.

Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic
Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore: Fortieth Session
By: WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
April 2019
Key words: Folklore, protecting rights, traditional knowledge, intellectual property, genetic resources
This article put out by WIPO discusses some resources available and in support of intellectual property rights and protection of them, traditional knowledge, folklore, and genetic resources. This article provides links to the additional resources found within the article.

Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic
Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore: Fortieth Session
By: WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
April 2019
Key words: Folklore, protecting rights, traditional knowledge, intellectual property, genetic resources
This article put out by WIPO discusses some of the previous movements by members of the organization brought forward in previous meetings. The article also discusses current activities involving the subject that are ongoing or current.

Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic
Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore: Fortieth Session
By: WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization)
April 2019
Key words: Folklore, protecting rights, traditional knowledge, intellectual property, genetic resources
This article put out by WIPO summarizes the meetings of the organization.

The Declaration of "Tlaxcala"
By: International Indian Treaty Council (IITC)
March 8, 2019
Key words: corn, agriculture
This declaration discusses the significance of corn's ancestral knowledge to the indigenous peoples of North America, Central America, Caribbean, and South America. The declaration raises a call for indigenous populations to preserve the ways they have been planting corn and the significance corn has to their culture.

To share or not to share? Tribes risk exploitation when sharing climate change solutions
By: Paula Rosa-Aquino
Date: Nov. 21, 2018
Key words: Pollution, climate change, Indigenous knowledge, sharing, knowledge protection, exploitation, EPA, DOI, UNDRIP
Many Indigenous communities question whether there is a way to communicate their knowledge of the environment to non-indigenous peoples in a way that will benefit their tribes and the environment. There is concern as to how the knowledge will be applied. The article explains EPA, DOI, and United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples policies that do not go far enough to protect Indigenous knowledge. Stories of exploitation, when outsiders claim Indigenous knowledge as their own, are all too common but some people are pushed by their concern for climate change to share the knowledge they see as helpful for the entire globe.

Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge
WIPO; Geneva, Switzerland
(no date)
Key words: property rights, laws, traditional knowledge, definitions, protection, medicine
The pamphlet gives many examples of traditional knowledge and explains how “tradition” is defined as not ancient, but connected to a particular group and passed on through the community. Medical knowledge of plants is sometimes appropriated by pharmaceutical companies and this organization seeks to protect indigenous people’s rights to this, and other types of knowledge.

Navigating Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property - The Story of the Yakuanoi
March 19, 2018
Key words: Patent law, intellectual property, traditional knowledge
Using real situations, WIPO developed a fictious tribe and situation to relay how an Indigenous community can attempt to rectify misappropriation of traditional knowledge.

Protecting traditional cultural expressions - some questions for lawmakers
By: Peter Jaszi
WIPO Magazine
Date: August, 2017
Key words: Indigenous knowledge, sharing, knowledge protection, exploitation, international laws, copyright laws
This article discusses important ideas that lawmakers should have in mind when protecting traditional cultural expressions. They discuss how not every gap needs to be protected by laws, such as constantly changing governmental positions. The author goes through different gaps in polices that need to be addressed by new laws. The author focuses on the downfalls of copyright laws in regards to the protection of indigenous culture.

Protecting traditional knowledge: a grassroots perspective
By: Catherine Jewell
Communications Division, WIPO Magazine
February 2017
Key words: International agreement, participatory process, intellectual property
In an interview with WIPO Magazine, Lucy Mulenkei, a member of the Maasai people of Kenya and an advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, explains why achieving international agreement to protect traditional knowledge is important to the communities.

Traditional knowledge: the challenges facing international lawmakers
By: Dr. Marisella Ouma
WIPO Magazine
February 2017
Key words: Equitable benefit sharing, Sui Generis protection system, international IP agreement
In this article, Dr. Marisella Ouma describes some of the national and regional laws that exist in countries like Costa Rica, Kenya, Peru and Zambia to protect traditional knowledge. While representing an important step towards greater protection from misappropriation and misuse of traditional knowledge, regional and national laws provide only fragmented protections. Here, Dr. Ouma argues for protections of traditional knowledge at the international level.

Protect and Promote Your Culture: A Practical Guide to Intellectual Property for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities
Key words: Indigenous empowerment, misappropriation, unfair competition
This guide includes examples and explains how communities can protect their intellectual property while using it on a broader scale.

Documenting Traditional Knowledge - A Toolkit
By: Begona Venero Aguirre, et al.
World Intellectual Property Organization
Key words: Traditional knowledge, intellectual property, biodiversity, food and agriculture, health, environment
This toolkit aims to help readers devise a plan for protecting the intellectual property of TK while it is being documented.

Traditional Ecological Disclosure: How the Freedom of Information Act Frustrates Tribal Natural Resource Consultation with Federal Agencies
By: Sophia E. Amberson
Washington Law Review, 92:937-981
Key words: Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Freedom of Information Act, Tribal resource consultation
When a federal or state agency administers environmental laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, the agency often consults with tribes. During these consultations, tribes often disseminate traditional ecological knowledge (TEK)—knowledge acquired by a tribe that is a mix of environmental ethics and scientific knowledge about tribal use. However, these consultations may be susceptible to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).This Comment explores the dichotomy between the purposes of FOIA and the protection of tribal culture and knowledge.

University IP policies: perception and practice
by Ruth Soetendorp, Mandy Haberman & Steve Smith
Intellectual Property Awareness Network Education Group, United Kingdom
December 2016
Key words: Intellectual property awareness, intellectual property education, labor market shifts
“Students are destined to be key workers in the knowledge economy. They will be dealing with intellectual property (IP) during their studies and future careers. So how well do they understand it? Recent research from the United Kingdom suggests there is much room for improvement.”

Background brief No. 10: Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources
World Intellectual Property Organization
Key words: Intellectual property, misuse of patents, access and benefit sharing
In this briefing, the tie between genetic resources and intellectual property is discussed at length with the association of patents. The briefing discusses solutions and requirements that should be in place for databases and information systems and patents.

The Protection of Traditional Knowledge: Rev. 2, September 23, 2016
World Intellectual Property Organization
Key words: Intellectual property enforcement, scope of intellectual property protection, intellectual property mediation
In this revised draft, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) addresses and works to further its efforts to provide guidance and policy to protect traditional knowledge. Among the aims of this WIPO document are to assist traditional knowledge-holders in preventing the misappropriation of their knowledge and control the ways in which it is used.

Controversy erupts over Peter Nabokov's publication of 'The Origin Myth of Acoma Pueblo'
by Khristaan D. Villela
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Key words: Sacred knowledge, collective intellectual property, Indigenous sovereignty
This article reflects on issues of intellectual property protection by looking at a situation where an external author published privileged sacred materials. It examines western vs Indigenous ideas about the meaning of intellectual property and explores concepts of restricted access to sacred text and communal intellectual property ownership.

Background brief No. 9: Documentation of Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions
World Intellectual Property Organization
Key words: Unwanted disclosure, misuse of patents, documentation for preservation
This brief discusses legitimate and illegitimate purposes for documenting traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions and argues that documentation of TK and TCEs should not be an end in itself but should only be done for specific purposes. The brief also discusses complications surrounding documentation of TK and TCEs and strategies for navigating around them.

Advancing the Lore: A Proposed Legal Framework for Filipino Traditional Knowledge Protection and Commercialization
Gonzalo D. V. Go III & Paolo Miguel S. Consignado
Ateneo Law Journal, 60:4:992-1031

Key words: Indigenous People’s Rights, Property Rights, Property Laws, Traditional Knowledge
This article talks about traditional knowledge in the Filipino culture, the clash of traditional knowledge and intellectual property rights. The authors then move into ways traditional knowledge can be protected and proposes legal frameworks that can be used to protect individuals and traditional knowledge.

Background brief No. 7: Customary Law and Traditional Knowledge
World Intellectual Property Organization
Key words: Combining customary law and intellectual property law, traditional knowledge protection, knowledge management
This brief discusses the interplay between customary law and intellectual property law with relation to traditional knowledge. It explores the way that customary law can be used in conjunction with intellectual property laws to protect traditional knowledge.

Background brief No. 1: Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property
World Intellectual Property Organization
Key words: Defensive protection, positive protection, genetic resources, sacred knowledge
This brief discusses intellectual property and the way it interacts with traditional knowledge, and how existing international frameworks may be used to protect that knowledge.

Appropriation (?) of the Month: An Ethnopharmaceutical Adventure
Posted by Kristen Dobbin
March 24, 2015 - 15:56
Key words: Confidentiality, cultural appropriation, research ethics
This is a case study of researchers attempting and failing to secure a patent, regarding the use of well known indigenous medical treatment.

Gnaritas Nullis (No One's Knowledge): The Essence of Traditional Knowledge and Its Colonization through Western Legal Regimes
as it appears in Elements of Indigenous Style - A Guide for Writing by and About Indigenous Peoples
By: Gregory Younging
Key words: intellectual property, copyright, trademark, traditional knowledge, Indigenous knowledge, law
This article, which was reprinted and revised from its initial printing in 2015, discusses the history of western law regarding intellectual property, its application, and its failures for protecting Indigenous knowledge.

Indigenous Knowledge and Intellectual Property Rights
By: Jane E. Anderson
International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2:11
Key Words: Intellectual Property, rights, protection, colonialism, colonial legacy, appropriation, legal frameworks, indigenous people, patents
This article explores the question of using Western notions of property and ownership to indigenous knowledge systems and how to protect traditional knowledge through intellectual property law. Western science appropriates indigenous knowledge of plants, animals, and medicines and access to patents for biodiversity is controversial as well as difficult to achieve.

Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions
World Intellectual Property Organization
Key words: Intellectual property, public domain, cultural appropriation
This booklet provides background, definitions, and a general overview intellectual property concerns as they relate to genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions.

Guarding Against Exploitation: Protecting Indigenous Knowledge in the Age of Climate Change
By: Joseph Brewer and Elizabeth Ann Kronk Warner
Key words: Traditional knowledge, indigenous knowledge, climate change, intellectual property
Two University of Kansas professors, each citizens of Native American tribes, share examples of how tribes are using traditional knowledge to address the effects of climate change, discusses existing United States and international intellectual property law, and suggests tribes might be better served by using their own law-making abilities to protect TEK.

New video explores questions at the heart of IPinCH
Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH)
Published: June 20, 2014
Key words: Definition of cultural heritage, cultural heritage ownership, communal ownership
This video is an introduction to the organization, IPinCH, an interdisciplinary organization based at Simon Fraiser University that studies intellectual property issues relating to Indigenous peoples.

Developing Policies and Protocols for the Culturally Sensitive Intellectual Properties of the Penobscot Nation of Maine
By: Bonnie Newsom, with contributions from the Penobscot Nation Intellectual Property Working Group and Julie Woods. University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
April 2014
Key words: Intellectual property decision-making process, intellectual property negotiation, intellectual property management
This publication details how, “Indigenous communities face legal, social, cultural, and economic challenges when attempting to protect or manage their intellectual property (IP). One such challenge is the lack of a community-based infrastructure that formalizes processes for confronting IP issues. This deficiency is particularly apparent in the field of archaeology, where IP and cultural heritage issues are being contested on a number of domestic and international fronts. To mitigate this challenge, the Penobscot Nation in Maine, with support from partners at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), engaged in a community-based initiative to develop tribal protocols, tools, and an internal infrastructure to address IP issues related to archaeology and heritage-based places.”

Protecting Traditional Environmental Knowledge and New Social Movements in the Americas: Intellectual Property, Human Right, or Claims to an Alternative Form of Sustainable Development?
By: Rosemary J. Coombe
Florida Journal of International Law, 17:115-135
Key words: Zapatista, Chiapas, Mexico, laws, TEK, cultural rights, sustainable development, neoliberalism
This article discusses some of the issues that the Zapatista face in preserving their TEK from a legal standpoint in the Chiapas region. The article looks at different laws that might preserve the TEK in the area. These laws are tied to social movements where Indigenous peoples call for their political autonomy from Mexico. The article uses TEK and the Zapatista movement as a way to come to a new sustainable development in the area as well as a way to preserve cultural rights.

Writing, Speaking and Performance: The Dialectic in the Law
by David Stephenson
Published on Nov 15, 2013
Key words: Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, cultural tourism, Indigenous storytelling, cultural revitalization
The speaker in this video talks about several case studies, which give examples of local Indigenous knowledge and how it can be used for land management and cultural tourism. He highlights the importance of the interplay and conversation between local Indigenous experts and external authorities, such as western legal structures in order to spur vibrant cultural projects and cultural revitalization.

Justice forward: Tribes, climate adaptation and responsibility
By: Kyle Powys Whyte
Climatic Change
Key words: government-to-government, trust responsibility, multiparty governance, climate change, legislators
In this paper, an alternative model is proposed regarding the obligations toward working with indigenous people on climate change. When policies like the inclusion of multiple knowledge sources in climate research are viewed as systems of responsibility, the focus becomes what legislators can do, rather than the ways in which they are limited.

Research Regulation in American Indian/Alaska Native Communities: A Guide to Reviewing Research Studies
By: Puneet Chawla Sahota
NCAI Policy Research Center
Key words: Research proposals, regulations, policy
This article suggests some helpful guidelines that tribes might want to follow when reviewing research proposals. The article suggests that all research proposals need to be well and fully written, when submitted to a tribe. There is a list of suggested things to look for in a research proposal such as funding, ways of protecting confidentiality, as well as data control and ownership.

Justifying Intellectual Property in Traditional Knowledge
By: Djims Milius
Intellectual Property Quarterly
Key words: Traditional knowledge promotion, protection, Africa, Caribbean, China, India, indigenous peoples, patents, protect culture, policy, international trade, WTO, governments, communal ownership
The journal article reviews case studies from around the world to explore how traditional knowledge such as fishing and hunting methods, usage of plants and animals for medicinal needs, food processing and cooking techniques, and agricultural skills can be documented, preserved, and protected.

Traditional Knowledge & Indigenous Peoples
By: Ulia Popova-Gosart (ed. and translator)
Key words: Intellectual property, laws, protection of knowledge, climate change, Indonesia, Caribbean, Australia, Saami community
In the linked collection of papers, eight authors explore how traditional knowledge can be preserved through access to rights of intellectual property.

Traditional Cultural Expressions/Expressions of Folklore and Traditional Knowledge
Comments of the United States of America
Washington. DC
March 30. 2007
Key words: Traditional cultural expression definition, traditional knowledge definition, penalties for misappropriation
This article represents the perspective of the United States as to the defining and protecting of traditional knowledge as well as what penalties should be imposed on those who misappropriate and misuse traditional knowledge.

Traditional Knowledge & Intellectual Property: A Handbook On Issues & Options For Traditional Knowledge Holders in Protecting Their Intellectual Property & Maintaining Biological Diversity
By: Hansen, S & J Van Fleet
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Human Rights Program
Key words: Traditional knowledge identification, intellectual property protections, intellectual property strategy
This handbook provides an overview of intellectual property mechanisms that can be used to protect traditional knowledge and discusses strategies for their implementation. The handbook also discusses strategies for the identification of traditional knowledge.

Protecting Indigenous Knowledge and Heritage: A Global Challenge
By: Marie Battiste and James (Sákéj) Youngblood Henderson
Purich Press
Key words: Intellectual property policy, Indigenous language protection, Indigenous art protection, Indigenous knowledge transmission
Whether the approximately 500 million Indigenous Peoples in the world live in Canada, the United States, Australia, India, Peru, or Russia, they have faced a similar fate at the hands of colonizing powers. That has included assaults on their language and culture, commercialization of their art, and use of their plant knowledge in the development of medicine, all without consent, acknowledgement, or benefit to them. This book looks at the issues from an international perspective and explores developments in various countries including Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and also at the work of the United Nations and relevant international agreements.

Methodology for the Development of National Intellectual Property Strategies - Toolkit
Key words: National intellectual property, national consultation, WIPO methodology
This handbook from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) provides a guide and methodology for the development of national intellectual property strategies.

Last updated: June 17, 2020