October 11, 2010 by Rachel Migicovsky (IPilogue Editor)
Rachel Migicovsky is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, Traditional Knowledge (TK) is “knowledge which has a traditional link with a certain community: it is … developed, sustained and passed on within a traditional community, and…between generations”. The introduction of TRIPS in 1994, a WTO agreement introducing an international uniform legal standard for the treatment of intellectual property, heralded the beginning of a constant discussion surrounding the treatment of IP by Western legal systems. Further debate emanates from a decision on August 10, 2010 by nine of the seventeen African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) member states to sign the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore; the remaining eight countries must now follow suit. The Protocol provides that owners of TK shall have exclusive rights to that knowledge. The UN has released a report noting that intellectual property law may not always be compatible with TK. However, the practical utility of the Protocol also merits examination.