Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: Implications of customary laws and practices - Key findings and recommendations 2005-2009 (2009)

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Since January 2005, this action-research project has focused on developing alternative tools to protect traditional knowledge which are rooted in local customary laws rather than based on existing Intellectual Property standards. Existing IPRs (eg. patents, copyrights) are largely unsuitable for protecting rights over traditional knowledge because they provide commercial incentives, whereas traditional innovations are driven primarily by subsistence needs. Survival from nature requires continual access to new knowledge and innovations – ie. collective rather than exclusive rights. To sustain biodiversity-based lifestyles, communities need to maintain control over their knowledge and related bio-resources and prevent others from unfairly exploiting or appropriating them, while taking advantage of market opportunities themselves. Many communities are facing increasing threats to their resource rights due to the spread of western IPRs (eg. patents and PBRs), often through Free Trade Agreements. IPRs can confer rights over community resources to others (eg. if they are mis-granted or granted too easily) and do not require consent or benefit-sharing when community resources are used by others . Limiting rights to use, sell or exchange a bioresource can be a serious problem if your livelihood depends on it. The project explored customary laws, values and practices relating to TK and biodiversity with indigenous and local communities in Peru, Panama, India, China and Kenya; and developed local tools for protecting TK and biocultural systems. It sought to inform national and international policy on TK and ABS, and to facilitate local implementation of global policy (eg. the CBD). The community level work was complemented by policy and literature reviews, and discussion with other stakeholders.
Language: English
Imprint: IIED: 2009
Series: Report,