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Trademarks or trade barriers?: Indigenous knowledge and the flaws in the global IPR system

  • Zenobia Ismail
  • Tashil Fakir
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    Abstract: The commercial value of Africa's indigenous knowledge may potentially jumpstart development if the returns are shared with its African owners. The internationalisation of an intellectual property regime appears to be facilitating the appropriation of indigenous knowledge and products from developing countries by multinational corporations. Indigenous knowledge is removed from the communal domain and converted to foreign-owned private property, effectively depriving developing countries of the commercialisation value of their heritage via exports and value-added processing. The lopsided benefits of IPR protection are exemplified in the case of the US-owned trademark on South Africa's indigenous Rooibos tea, which is becoming increasingly popular worldwide. Trademark protection may have devolved perversely into trade protectionism, thus undermining the Millennium Development Goals of market access and sustainable development. A revision of IPR's and TRIPS to incorporate recognition and protection of indigenous knowledge is necessary to foster development.

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    Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal International Journal of Social Economics.

    Volume (Year): 31 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 1/2 (January)
    Pages: 173-194

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    Handle: RePEc:eme:ijsepp:v:31:y:2004:i:1/2:p:173-194
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