20061005

 

Traditional Knowledge: Rights, values, beliefs & ownership

Excerpt: "...Indigenous representatives charge that international patent and copyright laws are ''inappropriate'' for protecting their systems of traditional knowledge, and that such private rights inherently conflict with native beliefs on ''rights to use, and obligations to respect, the natural world.'' Experts gathered at a meeting organised by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), indicated that traditional knowledge requires new formulas for its protection in order to preserve it from exploitation and extinction. To do so, the most promising options would be ''to bridge traditional collective rights with the more modern and western concept of intellectual property rights,'' concluded the delegates at the UNCTAD meeting...From the trade and development perspective, the systems to preserve traditional knowledge should ensure that the benefits produced are distributed among the custodians and developers of such knowledge. Poorer countries could boost their development and trade by utilising traditional knowledge, defined as ''the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities embodying traditional lifestyles'' as well as ''indigenous and local technologies,'' according to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. UNCTAD, meanwhile, emphasised that the ''bridge'' approach poses the question of responsibility of the holders and users of the knowledge, and of the equitable distribution of profits obtained from the utilisation of the resources provided by indigenous knowledge of biodiversity. But the idea of protecting traditional knowledge under the international regulations for intellectual property did not sit well with the representatives of indigenous communities at the meeting.
Currently, intellectual property rights (IPRs) ''are founded on private, economic rights, whereas indigenous peoples' systems are values-based'' and include the rights to utilise the natural world, but also to respect it, said the indigenous delegates..."

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