New Scholarship on IP and Traditional Knowledge in Tribal Codes

Dalindyebo Bafana Shabalala has posted “Intellectual Property, Traditional Knowledge, and Traditional Cultural Expressions in Native American Tribal Codes” on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

Indigenous peoples and nations have been making demands for protection and promotion of their intellectual property, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions in domestic and international fora. The power of the basic demand is one that lies in claims of moral duty and human rights. This Article argues that in order for such claims to have power, one of the necessary elements for success is that the demandeurs themselves need to provide such protection within whatever scope of sovereignty that they exercise. In the context of Native American tribes seeking protection for Native American intellectual property under federal law in the broader territory of the United States, this Article argues that a necessary condition for success may be ensuring such protection on their own tribal territory. This Article serves as an early contribution to a broader research agenda aimed at providing more data as a basis for tribal claims for protection of their traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. It presents a survey of the nature and scope of legal and formal protection that tribal legislation in the United States has provided for traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. It further surveys and analyzes the nature and scope of protection provided under federal law and assesses the gap between what tribal codes provide and what federal law provides. It then proposes a series of next steps as a research agenda.

Danielle Conway on Promoting Indigenous Innovation Through the Licensing of Article 31 Indigenous Assets and Resources

Danielle M. Conway has posted her paper, “Promoting Indigenous Innovation, Enterprise, and Entrepreneurship Through the Licensing of Article 31 Indigenous Assets and Resources.” She published the paper in the SMU Law Review.

Here is the abstract:

The notion that indigenous entrepreneurship is inherently paradoxical to participation in the western marketplace must be challenged, even though there is a fine balance indigenous entrepreneurs maintain with their own world and the western world. This balance considers that indigenous entrepreneurs exist within transgenerational communities with complex cross-cultural linkages with the west. Far from fully segregating from western society and the states in which they reside, indigenous entrepreneurs seek to promote indigeneity through indigenous and non-indigenous commerce. As Hindle and Lansdowne explain, “[t]here need be no paradox, no contradiction, no values sacrifice, no false dichotomy between heritage and innovation.” Reference to the goals and objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples bear this out. For example, article 19 of the Declaration relates to Indigenous peoples’ participation with respect to issues that affect them, their lands, their resources, and their rights. The Declaration also calls for good-faith efforts by states to consult and cooperate with Indigenous peoples about economic and social development that directly or indirectly impacts their rights. Relevant to this paper, article 31 of the Declaration deals with Indigenous peoples’ right to exercise authority and control over their cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions in addition to any intellectual property rights in these assets and resources. Accordingly, this Article promotes the use of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a basis for asserting indigenous control over article 31 assets and resources to spur indigenous enterprise and innovation. After asserting control, Indigenous peoples can then operationalize the use of their article 31 assets and resources to counteract the “history of dispossession, assimilation, child removal and other previous colonial policies [that have] created a legacy” of economic disadvantage, political and structural disadvantage, geographic and cultural disadvantage, and collective and individual disadvantage. This article focuses on licensing as a mechanism to both implement the goals and objectives of the Declaration and to reassert indigenous authority and control over indigenous assets and resources.

CFP: American University Law School Symposium on “Gender and Traditional Cultural Expressions”

Apr 1: IP/Gender: Gender and Traditional Cultural Expressions

IP/Gender:  Mapping the Connections

Eighth Annual Symposium, April 1, 2011

Special Theme:

Gender and Traditional Cultural Expressions


New Scholarship on Indigenous Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property Law

Ikechi Mgbeoji has posted “Making Space for Grandma: The Emancipation of Traditional Knowledge and the Dominance of Western-Style Intellectual Property Rights Regimes” on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

The question that this paper seeks to tackle is whether the patent system is of any relevance or pertinence to the search for mechanisms for the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) of the medicinal uses of biodiversity possessed by traditional knowledge practitioners across different parts of the world. Allegations of biopiracy have been made against researchers, bioprospectors and other entities actively scouring indigenous peoples’ cornucopia for the next miracle drug. The objective of this paper will be achieved through two main approaches. The first analyzes the historical and philosophical roots of the divide between dominant regimes of intellectual property rights (IPRs) and Traditional Knowledge (TK). As already noted, the patent system is used as the framework for the analysis. The second suggests ways and methodologies by which the divide may be bridged. The analysis concedes that the gaps are quite profound but nonetheless offer policy-makers some leeway and flexibility to protect TK by borrowing some of the features of dominant IPRs regimes. The approach is anchored on a pragmatic acceptance of the fact that dominant regimes are too well-established to be displaced by well-meaning but weak protagonists for purer versions of TK-models.

Graham and McJohn: “Thirty Two Short Stories about Intellectual Property”

Lorie Graham and Stephen M. McJohn have posted their paper, “Thirty Two Short Stories about Intellectual Property,” on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

In the United States, intellectual property law is usually viewed as serving economics, by providing an incentive for authors and inventors to create works. The incentive policy, however, ill fits the actual contours of intellectual property law and how artists and inventors use it. Adding other approaches offers a fuller explanation. Intellectual property plays a greater role than economic theory suggests in disclosing technology, and in serving to coordinate cultural values in technology. Intellectual property can serve human rights (similar to the moral rights approach in some jurisdictions), by allowing people to control the way that their works are publicly exploited, and by allowing groups (such as indigenous peoples) to implement rights of self-determination, education, and media.

This piece also departs from the typical law review format. In assessing doctrine and theory, deductive reasoning from economic or legal principles is no more important than literary tools, like interpretation and narrative. These points can be illustrated by some stories.

Munzer & Raustiala on IP and Indigenous Traditional Knowledge

Stephen Munzer and Kal Raustiala have posted “The Uneasy Case for Intellectual Property Rights in Traditional Knowledge” on SSRN. The paper appears in the Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal, Vol. 27, pp. 37-97, 2009. Here is the abstract:

Should traditional knowledge – -the understanding or skill possessed by indigenous peoples pertaining to their culture and folklore and their use of native plants for medicinal purposes – receive protection as intellectual property? This Article examines nine major arguments from the moral, political and legal philosophy of property for intellectual property rights and contends that, as applied to traditional knowledge (TK), they justify at most a modest package of rights under domestic and international law. The arguments involve desert based on labor; firstness; stewardship; stability; moral right of the community; incentives to innovate; incentives to commercialize; unjust enrichment, misappropriation and restitution; and infringement and dilution. These arguments do, however, support “defensive” protection for TK: that is, halting the use of TK by nonindigenous actors in obtaining patents and copyrights. These arguments also support the dissemination of TK on the internet and via other digital media and the selective use of trademarks. The force of these conclusions resides in the importance of a vibrant public domain, and the absence of any plausible limiting principle that would allow more robust rights in TK for indigenous groups without permitting equally robust rights for nonindigenous groups.

John Cross on Indigenous Property Rights

John Cross has posted “Justifying Property Rights in Native American Traditional Knowledge” on SSRN, a paper coming out of the Texas Wesleyan symposium on Intellectual Property and Indigenous Peoples. Here is the abstract:

This paper explores various reasons why Congress might elect to protect the traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression of Indian tribes. It also addresses whether Congress would have the constitutional authority to enact such legislation.

Call for Papers: Indigenous Intellectual Property



Texas Wesleyan University School of Law

Friday, October 10, 2008

Texas Wesleyan University School of Law is pleased to host a symposium on the topic of Intellectual Property and Indigenous Peoples, on Friday, October 10, 2008. The purpose of this symposium is to examine intellectual property concepts – copyrights, trademark rights, patent rights, and trade secrets – as applied to the cultural heritage, art, and artifact of indigenous peoples.

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