At the crossroads: the relationship between heritage and intellectual property in traditional knowledge protection in Southeast Asia

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Abstract

Matters related to traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) are ‘at the crossroads’ in various respects. From a legal perspective, TK is discussed in several international forums and is at the intersection of several already established or still emerging fields of law. Of particular interest here is the relationship between heritage and intellectual property. It is discussed in international diplomatic negotiations on intellectual property (IP) protection for TK/TCEs in the context of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and in the context of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Geographically, TK is also located ‘at the crossroads’. It is linked to cultural spaces associated with certain peoples and certain territories and these are often not identical with the borders of nation states. Such borders are a colonial artefact that often fails to reflect the ethno-geographical reality of a region. The divergent national and ethnic boundaries create overlapping claims in situations that may be further complicated by both ancient and modern transmigrations and/or shared heritage. The Southeast Asian region, which is the geographical focus of this article, has been at the crossroads of trade and religious and cultural influences for centuries and it provides, therefore, excellent examples for such overlapping cultural spaces and resulting conflicting or competing claims. The article examines the legal and geographical intersections that have contributed to the current situation and the relationship between cultural and intellectual property in regional claims as well as examples of disputes that have arisen and the reasons for them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-94
Number of pages21
JournalLaw in Context
Volume29
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

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