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Can collective intellectual property rights preserve culture and biodiversity?

Anna Bolin

IIED Briefing, 4 pages

Millions of unique smallholder producers and artisans make a huge contribution to the world economy but few can compete in globalised markets. Their high per unit production costs, lack of uniformity and constraints on scale make it difficult for their collective business models to compete against industrial scale monocultures. While their cultures and environments are rich in diversity, they are increasingly challenging to preserve. There is an urgent need to shift market and trade preferences towards production systems that can both boost producers’ incomes and sustain the interlinked biodiversity and cultural (biocultural) heritage of their landscapes. One approach is to use place-based intellectual property rights — known as geographical indications (GIs). These are increasingly being used by producers seeking competitive advantage. This briefing highlights the advantages and challenges they can face in doing so, and ways forward.

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