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

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

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by pmnationtalk on November 29, 20161646 Views

Credits: Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Streamed live on Nov 11, 2016

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


This Fall, the Spangenberg Centre on Law, Technology and the Arts will be holding 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.


Elizabeth Kronk Warner, Professor, University of Kansas School of Law
Rebecca Tsosie, Professor, University of Arizona, James E. Rogers School of Law
J. Janewa Osei-Tutu, Associate Professor, Florida International University School of Law
Kathy Bowrey, Professor, University of New South Wales, Australia
Margo Bagley, Professor, Emory University, School of Law
Ikechi Mgbeoji, Professor, York University, Osgoode Hall Law School, Canada
Graham Dutfield, Professor, School of Law, University of Leeds, UK
Cathay Smith, Assistant Professor, University of Montana School of Law
Olufunmilayo B. Arewa, Professor, UC Irvine School of Law
Preston Hardison, Policy Analyst, Tulalip Tribes, Washington State
Robert Clinton, ASU, Foundation Professor of Law, Keynote
Dorothy Noyes, Professor, The Ohio State University

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