Legal framework eyed to protect local knowledge

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    THE GOVERNMENT is stepping up efforts to draft a legal framework to protect indigenous ownership of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.

    Officials from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and National Museum were invited yesterday to a forum on Intellectual Property (IP) and Traditional Knowledge where concerned groups were made aware of efforts of the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPhil) to expand the coverage of intellectual property laws.

    “Our job is to provide a legal framework to include traditional knowledge and cultural expressions into the IP system,” IPOPhil Director- General Ricardo R. Blancaflor said on the sidelines of the forum. “We’re hoping that with NCCA and NCIP on board, we can short-circuit the process and be more exhaustive with our efforts,” he added.

    The forum, which is part of a series of events to increase public awareness of IP rights, has been highlighted by the presence of officials from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). “There is no international legal instrument at the moment for this. What we’re doing right now is we’re working out which IP rules should be applied to traditional knowledge and cultural expressions,” Wend Wendland, WIPO director for traditional knowledge, told BusinessWorld on the sidelines of the forum.

    The legal endeavor is considered a challenge to the IP system given the non-commercial nature of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions. “Traditional knowledge are created collectively… and were never meant to be commercialized. The IP system is about recognizing innovation and creativity with the intent to disseminate and commercialize,” Mr. Wendland explained.

    “It’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole, but the important message we’re trying to get across is that we’re not forcing indigenous people to comply with the IP system. What we’re trying to do is use these IP values to ensure creativity belongs to their creators and that they’re not being misused,” he added.

    Last year, IPOPhil directed its 10 regional offices to get in touch with indigenous groups to prepare for the establishment of a comprehensive database for traditional knowledge and cultural expressions, Mr. Blancaflor noted. The database, along with the legal framework, is intended to protect the artistic works and the knowledge of indigenous groups from unscrupulous duplication and commercialization.

    “The regional offices were able to reach around 20 different indigenous groups but that’s not yet exhaustive. We did that mainly to train our own people on how to handle this sort of information, because they’re used to the regular copyright and patent applications,” he explained. Developing the said database and legal framework coincides with WIPO efforts to establish a global system to protect traditional knowledge and cultural expressions. — Eliza J. Diaz

    Source: Business World Online