Harmonizing Innovation and Cultural Heritage with Intellectual Property Rights and Traditional Knowledge.

Posted On : December 19, 2023
Harmonizing Innovation and Cultural Heritage with Intellectual Property Rights and Traditional Knowledge.
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The term "traditional knowledge" refers to a wide range of information, inventions, and customs that are typically passed down through generations among indigenous and local communities. A vast range of knowledge, including medical expertise, agricultural methods, and environmental management strategies, can be included in traditional knowledge. Protecting Traditional Knowledge from exploitation and misappropriation has gained more attention in recent years. A set of legal rights known as intellectual property rights grant the owner the sole authority to use, manage, and profit from their creations. A vast variety of creations, such as inventions, literary works, artistic works, and symbols, can be protected by intellectual property rights. Traditional knowledge hasn't typically been protected by IPRs, though.


Comprehending Customary Knowledge

The abilities, inventions, and customs that are passed down through the generations in a community are all included in traditional knowledge. It frequently has to do with medicine, agriculture, folklore, and other facets of everyday life. Traditional knowledge is typically transmitted orally or through practical demonstrations, in contrast to modern intellectual property, which is frequently codified in legal systems.


The difficulties in traditional knowledge protection with IPRs

There are several difficulties in using IPRs to protect traditional knowledge. The fact that traditional knowledge is frequently not regarded as an "invention" in the conventional sense presents one difficulty. While traditional knowledge is frequently founded on knowledge that has been gathered over generations, inventions are usually new and obscure. Moreover, traditional knowledge is frequently collective in nature, making it challenging to identify individual owners.

Another difficulty is that traditional knowledge secrecy may clash with IPR disclosure requirements. If local and indigenous communities are afraid that their traditional knowledge will be misused or exploited, they might be reluctant to reveal it to the public.


Different methods for safeguarding traditional knowledge

Despite the difficulties, there are several different strategies for traditional knowledge protection. The creation of sui generis protection systems intended exclusively for traditional knowledge is one strategy. Sui generis systems can be customized to meet the unique requirements of local and indigenous communities while also taking into consideration the distinctive features of Traditional Knowledge. Using contractual protections to safeguard traditional knowledge is an additional strategy. Contracts between corporations or academic institutions and indigenous and local communities can stipulate that the latter will respect the former's traditional knowledge and will split any profits derived from its use.


Different ways that traditional knowledge is protected

Two types of protection are being sought for traditional knowledge internationally:

1.Protective shielding

2.Protective measures

Protective Defensive: The goal of defensive protection is to prevent outsiders from obtaining intellectual property rights related to traditional knowledge. The finest illustration of this is India's TKDL. TKDL will assist in making sure that incidents such as the grating of a patent on turmeric don't occur again.

Advantageous Defense: Communities are empowered by positive protection because it gives them the freedom to disseminate traditional knowledge, choose how to use it, and profit from its commercial exploitation.


International Agreements: To address these issues, efforts have been made on a global scale. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol aims to guarantee the just and equal distribution of advantages resulting from the use of genetic resources.

Community Protocols and Customary Laws: Allowing communities to create their own customary laws and protocols for the preservation of traditional knowledge makes it possible to take a more contextualized and culturally aware approach.

Traditional Knowledge Integration into IP Systems: Several nations have looked into how to incorporate traditional knowledge into the current intellectual property frameworks. This entails adjusting legal frameworks to take into account the distinctiveness of traditional knowledge.

Public Education and Awareness: It is imperative to educate the public about the value of traditional knowledge and the possible consequences of its theft.


The Protocol on the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention

An international agreement known as the Convention on Biological Diversity seeks to protect biodiversity and encourage the wise use of biological resources. An additional agreement known as the CBD's Nagoya Protocol deals with the use and availability of genetic resources as well as the just and equitable distribution of the benefits that arise from them.

Parties to the Nagoya Protocol are required to take action to safeguard traditional knowledge owned by indigenous and local communities that is connected to genetic resources. A framework for the sharing of benefits resulting from the use of traditional knowledge is also established by the Protocol.


WIPO's function in safeguarding traditional knowledge

An intergovernmental body called the World Intellectual Property Organization assists nations in creating and utilizing IP to advance social, cultural, and economic advancement. The goal of several WIPO projects and programs is to safeguard traditional knowledge.

The Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore is one of WIPO's main initiatives. The traditional knowledge, genetic resources., and folklore-related issues can be discussed and resolved in the ICWG. In addition to working on an international instrument on traditional knowledge, the ICWG has produced a number of recommendations on how to protect traditional knowledge.



It is a difficult task to strike a balance between the concepts of intellectual property rights and the preservation of traditional knowledge. A multifaceted strategy incorporating global cooperation, creative legal solutions, and community empowerment is needed to strike this balance. It is crucial to promote a conversation that honours the diversity of knowledge systems while encouraging innovation and cultural preservation as the world community struggles to overcome these obstacles.



1.Bera, R.K. (2008), Nive perceptions about patents in India, Current Science, 94:1565-1566.

2.Correa, C. (2000), Integrating public health concerns into patent legislation in developing countries, South Centre, Geneva.

3.Downes, D. (1997), Using Intellectual Property as a Tool to Protect Traditional Knowledge, Madrid: Centre for international Environmental Law (CIEL).


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