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Traditional knowledge and intellectual property

This paper discusses a number of policy issues surrounding the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) that may be relevant to future negotiations or a deeper treatment of this issue in various international fora.
The paper aims to:

  • highlight various perspectives on the policy issues raised for developing countries and traditional and indigenous communities within them by the expansion of intellectual property rights (IPRs);
  • outline some definitional problems and the rationale and objectives for protection, different strategies for the use of IPRs for such protection, and various modalities of a sui generis regime as well as alternatives to these;
  • examine the possible functions of a regime on TK, its impact on the intended beneficiaries and key ethical, economic, environmental and social concerns;
  • consider the possible contribution of overseas development assistance (ODA) in developing and implementing policies on the protection of TK.

The paper is written for policy makers dealing with these issues across a range of government ministries as well as those groups and agencies with a special interest here. The report's aim is to contribute to informed public debate about, and policy making concerning, TK, IPRs and sustainable human development.

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