Who Owns Tradition? (Part 4)

Date of Event



November 11, 2016

"Who Owns Tradition? Reconceptualizing the Protection of Indigenous and Traditional Knowledge"

The Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology & the Arts Conference Case Western Reserve University School of Law

The Spangenberg Centre on Law, Technology and the Arts held its annual conference on the issue of Intellectual Property, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore. Focusing on the international aspects of the issue with a US perspective, the conference seeks to revisit and re-examine the theoretical discomfort, and sometimes outright rejection of the possibility of protection of GR, TK and Folklore in mainstream intellectual property discourse in developed countries. The conference will have a multidisciplinary approach drawing on scholarship in intellectual property, cultural and human rights, history and political science and anthropology. After a hiatus of almost 2 years, the 2015 WIPO General Assembly renewed the mandate of WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) to resume negotiations on an international instrument for the protection of traditional knowledge. In the interim, national and regional legislation on the protection of genetic resources (GR), Traditional Knowledge (TK) and folklore has proliferated in developing countries, largely modeled on the options in the draft text on protection of TK and protection of folklore developed at WIPO. However, in developed countries like the US, Australia and Canada there nevertheless remain significant stakeholders with an interest in such protection, in particular, Native American tribes, Australian Aboriginal peoples and Canadian First Nations, and yet legislation on protection for GR, TK and Folklore has not been forthcoming. A major reason for this lies in the relatively rigid and calcified nature and history of intellectual property protection in such developed economies, making it much more difficult to graft new sui generis forms of protection onto the existing system. Additionally, the theoretical framework justifying such protection has largely been missing from within the narrow intellectual property academic discourse in developed countries, which has largely found little to recommend such protection. With the new international momentum, it may be time to better understand the theoretical frameworks underlying claims for protection of GR, TK and Folklore and draw lessons from related fields of inquiry.

Lecture Series

Law, Technology and the Arts Center

Subject Headings

traditional knowledge; indigenous knowledge; genetic resources; traditional knowledge--international law; indigenous knowledge--international; folklore and intellectual property; traditional knowledge and intellectual property


Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Document Type