Intellectual property tools for protecting and promoting products based on biocultural heritage
Graham Dutfield, IIED, November 2011 | ISBN: 978-1-84369-819-7

Products developed by indigenous peoples and traditional societies, such as food crops and medicines, can protect biodiversity and provide an important source of income. This review explores the intellectual property (IP) tools of geographical indications, trademarks and rules of unfair competition for promoting these products, and protecting them from misappropriation, misuses and imitation, and assesses their potential to contribute to sustainable development. Intellectual property law is used mostly by large and powerful corporations, and does not easily accommodate the collective interests of groups and communities. Small producers and indigenous communities face significant difficulties in acquiring IP rights in important markets. But particular forms of IP – such as geographical indications (GIs) and trademarks, which can recognize and support group rights – may be better suited to use by groups or associations of small producers and may help protect their biocultural heritage. This legal review draws primarily on experience in Europe, where GIs and trademarks have been most widely used to date, but also includes experience from developing countries, such as India’s recent experience with GIs. This review suggests that with careful design and use, these IP tools could promote products based on biocultural heritage and economically benefit indigenous communities and small producers. Download the report [pdf] …