e-ISSN 2231-8542
ISSN 1511-3701

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Traditional Knowledge Documentation: Preventing or Promoting Biopiracy

Rohaida Nordin, Kamal Halili Hassan and Zinatul A. Zainol

Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agricultural Science, Volume 20, Issue S, June 2012

Keywords: Traditional knowledge, indigenous peoples, biological resources, biopiracy, intellectual property

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One of the issues currently being addressed concerning the management of biological resources is the protection of indigenous peoples' resources and traditional knowledge. The reason is the existing legal frameworks especially with regards to intellectual property (IPR) system do not provide adequate protection for the indigenous peoples' resources and knowledge. While the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has introduced an obligation to seek prior informed consent for the use of any traditional knowledge and ensure benefit-sharing, the existing IPR system does not have the requirement for benefit-sharing. The IPR system was also not designed for the protection of traditional knowledge in its original form (i.e. in its oral and non-documentation existence). Such features make the knowledge inaccessible for inspection by the patent officers and therefore "facilitate" biopiracy when patents were granted on innovations that were based on existing knowledge. As a consequence, traditional knowledge documentation (TKD) project has been accepted as an interim tool to overcome the shortcomings of the existing legal framework. This paper evaluates the objectives, form and required framework for TKD. As a case study, this paper specifically looks at the TKD projects in India and identifies the issues and lessons that can be learnt from the Indian experience. As a comparison, similar efforts by Malaysia's Sarawak Biodiversity Centre are also studied. This paper will demonstrate the weaknesses of the existing TKD projects that could eventually lead to "promotion" instead of "prevention" of biopiracy.

ISSN 1511-3701

e-ISSN 2231-8542

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