Protection of Knowledge

Protection of TEK is a serious concern for many indigenous peoples around the world, and they are justified in this concern. The information learned through a TEK project is communal property with a host of social and moral responsibilities for the knowledge holders. While TEK is communal property, not all members of an indigenous people are necessarily privy to it or to the breadth of it.

National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center's website provides these Model Research Codes and Contracts:
Communally held TEK is not eligible for protection through intellectual property laws in the United States, which protect an individual's intellectual property for a finite time before the information enters the public domain. For federal agencies, generally TEK held in federal files is subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. Make this fact known in writing to the indigenous community's governing body and individuals participating in the study. Gatekeeping by the indigenous community is currently the safest means of protecting sensitive TEK.

This issue is so important that this website has an entire page devoted to it. Please visit the Protection of Tribal/Indigenous Knowledge page.

For more information about activities to protect TEK worldwide, please visit the World Intellectual Property Organization website.

Last updated: July 10, 2023