How Can Traditional Knowledge Best Be Regulated? Comparing a Proprietary Rights Approach with a Regulatory Toolbox Approach
25(1) The Contemporary Pacific, pp. 1-31, 2013
26 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2013
Date Written: July 23, 2011
Traditional knowledge is increasingly being seen as a new potential source of economic value in the Pacific Islands region. As a result of this, and a belief that traditional knowledge is currently at risk in a number of respects, a move to protect it has developed over the past decade. This move has largely focused on the creation, through legislation, of a sui generis inalienable and perpetual property right in traditional knowledge, vested in its “owners” or “holders.” However, very little attention has been paid to date to the issue of determining who these owners or holders should be. The first part of this paper seeks to fill this gap by highlighting the institutional and normative issues implicated in any legislation envisaging group ownership over traditional knowledge. The second part proposes an alternative approach to the regulation of traditional knowledge, one that is not based on the creation of new proprietary rights. It argues that this alternative “regulatory toolbox” approach can achieve the same objectives for the protection of traditional knowledge that have been articulated in the push for the development of sui generis legislation, but avoids many of the potential sites of conflict inherent in such an approach.
Keywords: traditional knowledge, regulation, Pacific Islands, customary law, legal pluralism, intellectual property, community, ownership
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