Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions and Genetic Expressions

All you need to know about Traditional Knowledge


What is Traditional Knowledge?

Traditional knowledge also known as “TK” may be considered as the knowledge, skills, innovations, or practices of a traditional or indigenous community. This is passed between generations, and forms part of the traditional lifestyle of indigenous and local communities.

What are some examples of Traditional Knowledge?

Examples of traditional knowledge include:

  • Knowledge about traditional medicines;
  • Traditional hunting or fishing techniques;
  • Knowledge about animal migration patterns;
  • Knowledge about water management.

What is Traditional Cultural Expression?

Traditional cultural expression is defined as the forms in which traditional culture is expressed. It is a part of the identity and heritage of a traditional or indigenous community; and is passed down from generation to generation.

What are some examples of Traditional Cultural Expression?

Examples of traditional cultural expressions are dances, songs, handicraft and designs

What does the “Protection” of Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions mean?

“Protection” of traditional knowledge or traditional cultural expressions may mean protection against misuse or misappropriation. This may involve copying, adaptation or use by unauthorized third parties. The objective of protection is to make sure that the intellectual innovation and creativity embodied in traditional knowledge or traditional cultural expressions are not wrongly used.

  • Protection can mean recognizing and exercising exclusive rights, 
  • Protection can also include non-proprietary forms of protection like moral rights, equitable compensation schemes and protection against unfair competition.

For what type of products can geographical indications not be used?

The geographical indications which are not protected under the 2003 Act include terms or signs which are used for: 

  • Products which are immoral or against public order.
  • Products which are no longer in use or no longer protected in the country of origin.
  • Products which have become the common name in Antigua and Barbuda for the goods or services which it identifies.
  • (For Wines and Spirits) It has been used continuously for at least 10 years preceding 15 April 1994 or in good faith preceding that date.
  • Products which are confusingly similar to a trade mark for which rights had been acquired before the geographical indication is protected in its country of origin.
  • Products which are the names of a person or a predecessor in a particular business.

           (The Geographical Indications Act 2003, Section 6. (a), (b) and (c))

Can existing intellectual property laws provide protection for Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions?

Existing intellectual property law can provide some form of protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. Original works based on traditional cultural expressions may be protected by copyright and related rights. Trade marks, geographical indications, industrial designs, and unfair competition law may offer direct or indirect protection to traditional cultural expressions.

Innovations based on traditional knowledge may benefit from patent protection. It may also be protected as a trade secret or as confidential information, or may benefit from trademark, geographical indication and unfair competition protection.

Are these Issues relevant for Museums and other Cultural Institutions?

Cultural institutions play an invaluable role in the preservation, safeguarding and promotion of collections of traditional cultural expressions. These include photographs, sound recordings, films and manuscripts, which document communities’ lives, cultural expressions and knowledge systems.

What are Genetic Resources?

Genetic resources defined by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are biological materials that contain genetic information of value, capable of reproducing or being reproduced.

What are some examples of Genetic Resources?

Examples include material of plant, animal, or microbial origin, such as medicinal plants, agricultural crops, and animal breeds.

What does the “Protection” of Genetic Resources mean?

Genetic resources themselves are not intellectual property (they are not creations of the human mind) and thus cannot be directly protected as such. However, inventions based on or developed using genetic resources (associated with traditional knowledge or not) may be patentable or protected by plant breeders’ rights.

How are traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expression, and genetic resources protection enforced?

Efforts are underway at the regional and international level to identify and create measures that can directly exert control over the use by third parties of intangible property which is associated with traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expression, and genetic resources.

What has been done to address the issue of traditional knowledge in the Caribbean?

The Ministers of the Caribbean Community responsible for intellectual property adopted in 2006 a Resolution establishing a regional framework on traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expression, and genetic resources.

The Caribbean Working Group was created in March 2008 with the mandate to undertake research and develop a harmonized framework for review by Caribbean Member States.

What has been done to address the issue of traditional knowledge internationally?

The Member states of World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) mandated the creation of The WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property, Genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore to convene representatives to address policy development within these areas.