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Intellectual property for traditional knowledge on-line

This paper was presented by Anil K. Gupta, of the Honey Bee Network in India, at the Second WIPO International Conference on Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property held in Geneva from 19-21 September 2001.

For a large number of communities and knowledge experts, says Gupta, globalisation has reduced the opportunities for expressing values. Their values no longer encourage them to conserve biodiversity and other resources and the knowledge systems associated with them. Furthermore, while these knowledge-rich, but economically poor, communities have provided leads for modern pharmaceutical and seed industries, they have hardly ever shared in the benefits.

The situation could be halted by introducing traditional knowledge digital libraries (TKDL), he says. Such a library system would explicitly acknowledge the providers, producers and reproducers of traditional knowledge, and would share the results of its documentation with them in the relevant local language. The IPR issues related to the TKDL are discussed extensively in this paper.

To carry forward the ideas presented in this paper, several policy and institutional changes will be necessary. One of the most difficult challenges in relation to TKDL is the extremely poor Internet infrastructure in most developing countries.