Making Space for Grandma: The Emancipation of Traditional Knowledge

Ikechi Mgbeoji, Associate Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and IP Osgoode Team Member, recently published a paper on the relevance of the patent system in the protection of the traditional knowledge possessed by indigenous cultures around the world. The article argues that despite broad differences in the philosophies which underpin the two models, there are features of western-style intellectual property rights regimes which may be useful in the protection of traditional knowledge.

The author explains: “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”.

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