International Trade Rules and Indigenous Knowledge: A Basic Introduction

Indigenous Law Centre, University of New South Wales
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Indigenous Law Bulletin, 2006, 6 (20), pp. 10 - 12
Issue Date:
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Indigenous peoples knowledge relating to the sustainable use of land, ecosystems, plant varieties, medicine, folklore and craft and secret sacred knowledge is often referred to as traditional knowledge or Indigenous peoples intellectual property. Indigenous peoples refer to this body of knowledge as `Indigenous knowledge. The Secretariat of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has said traditional knowledge is developed from experience gained over the centuries and adapted to the local culture and environment, and transmitted orally from generation to generation. It tends to be collectively owned and takes the form of stories, songs, artistic expressions, proverbs, cultural events, beliefs, rituals, community laws, languages, agricultural practices, including the development of plant species and animal breeds, traditional know-how relating to architecture, textile-making and handicraft-making, fishery, health and forestry management.[2] Over the past twenty years, commercial exploitation of Indigenous knowledge has become particularly aggressive. Global trade and investment in the arts is worth millions of dollars to trans-national corporations (`TNCs) and states yet most Indigenous peoples do not receive the economic benefits of their commercialised knowledge.[3] This paper provides a conspectus of some of the current concerns about Indigenous knowledge in the context of the World Trade Organization (`WTO).
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