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Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge: implications of customary laws and practices (interim report)

The purpose of this collaborative research project is to assist indigenous and local communities to protect their rights over traditional knowledge relating to biological resources, in accordance with their customary laws and practices. The specific objectives are: a)To undertake case studies in Peru, India, Kenya, China and Panama, to examine: i) the customary laws and practices of indigenous and local communities relevant for controlling external use of TK; and ii) the implications for the development of mechanisms to protect TK at local, national and international levels. b) To inform and influence policy makers (local, state and national authorities, the CBD, WIPO, WTO and UN Indigenous Rights fora). Anticipated outcomes of the project include: 1. Improved understanding of alternative systems to existing IPR models, based on the livelihood needs, customary laws and values of indigenous and local communities. 2. Enhanced participation of TK holders in policy debate and formulation for TK protection at local, national and international level. 3. Enhanced capacity of TK holders to protect their rights, through the active participation of local communities in the research process and in developing tools for TK protection (eg. community protocols and registers). 4. Strengthened customary institutions and resource management systems, contributing to enhanced community control over resources.

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The current system of intellectual property rights is designed to promote commercial and scientific innovation. It offers little scope for protecting the knowledge rights of indigenous peoples, traditional farmers and healers, whose survival requires collective – not exclusive – access to new knowledge and innovations.

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Protecting community rights over traditional knowledge

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