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Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property: A sustainability agenda

Marinova, D. and Raven, M. (2006) Indigenous knowledge and intellectual property: A sustainability agenda. Journal of Economic Surveys, 20 (4). pp. 587-605.

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The paper argues that the current ways of protecting intellectual property are limited in their scope for recognizing indigenous rights to indigenous knowledge. Indigenous knowledge is often defined as being holistic and collectively owned, and an appropriate protection should allow for maintaining the cultural and physical environment that has generated it.

After examining the failure of the patent system to recognize indigenous input (using examples from the US Patent and Trademark Office), the analysis is directed towards alternatives. The world's first case of indigenous intellectual accreditation through the partnership between Mt Romance (Australian sandalwood company), Aveda (US-based multinational cosmetics corporation) and the Kutkabubba community (represented by the Songman Circle of Wisdom), is presented. The accreditation allows for the indigenous people to be recognized as traditional owners of the land, and for their care and knowledge about the sandalwood trees. It also gives them a share of the profits made from the contemporary use of the pure sandalwood oil.

The paper argues that sustainability, and indigenous sustainability in particular, provides a conceptual framework for a change in the way of protecting intellectual property. This implies that appropriate policies should be put in place for businesses to feel responsible towards the community.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy
Publisher: Blackwell
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