Traditional Knowledge Related Intellectual Property Rights: Empowering Women

Posted: 10 Feb 2017

See all articles by Pankaj Kumar

Pankaj Kumar

IIS (deemed to be University)

Date Written: January 31, 2017


Women contribute to all fields of creativity and intellectual endeavors. Women make vital and valued contributions across all fields of intellectual property including traditional knowledge and bio-diversity. Despite this, they remain under-represented in many areas. Indigenous people particularly women are primarily responsible for utilizing traditional knowledge like agricultural, medicinal etc to care for themselves and their families. Such knowledge may or may not be maintained confidential. Traditional knowledge may be sometime disseminated locally only and therefore, may not be accessible internationally. Generally traditional knowledge considered part of public domain and so in open access. Indigenous people particularly women are the key players maintain intellectual property relates to traditional knowledge and bio-diversity and unfortunately least recognized and rewarded. Bio-diversity and traditional knowledge proved a subject of tension among various countries on the issues of IPR and access and benefit sharing. The knowledge passed down from generation to generation in traditional societies around the globe has become the locus of great debate in the field of international intellectual property (IP) law. Some questions rose like - Should traditional knowledge be protected by law, or should it be part of the public domain? Should it receive the same kinds of protections as other intellectual property? Should it be covered by sui-generis systems of IP law?

In contrast to the open access, a protective public domain may challenges articulations of indigenous peoples’ knowledge as raw material and recognizes the inventiveness and dynamism of indigenous traditional knowledge. IP laws are ratified in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Agreement (TRIPs) in 1994 and the ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1993. Protecting legally the indigenous and traditional knowledge (TK) particularly in the field of biological science, internationally efforts have been made and states need to implement it. Some of such obligations are under Convention on biological diversity (CBD) and World Intellectual property organization (WIPO) which doing advocacy for recognizing, protection and to compensate to those who contributed for such traditional knowledge, innovations and the continuous maintenance. WIPO is committed to promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in the wider world of intellectual property (IP). The World Intellectual Property Office, in recognizing this, has developed specific programs devoted to issues of women, inventor-ship, and intellectual property. Internationally such efforts have served to expose the inadequacies of present intellectual property regime.

Unfortunately, this challenging issue of providing incentive in the country having different IP regimes has not been managed adequately. There is huge importance of documentation and protecting such knowledge to exclude other to get such credit and usage amount to unfair competition. Traditional knowledge digital library (TKDL) is one of the tools indicating such indigenous knowledge and considered as evidence examining ‘novelty’ one of the criteria of patentability.

Keywords: intellectual, intellectual property, IP, IPR, traditional knowledge, bio-diversity, Indigenous people, women, confidential, public domain, open access, access & benefit sharing (ABS), IP law, sui-generis systems, CBD, WIPO, TRIPS, TKDL

Suggested Citation

Kumar, Pankaj, Traditional Knowledge Related Intellectual Property Rights: Empowering Women (January 31, 2017). Available at SSRN:

Pankaj Kumar (Contact Author)

IIS (deemed to be University) ( email )

Gurukul Marg
SFS, Mansarovar
Jaipur, Rajasthan 302020
8619109061 (Phone)
302020 (Fax)


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