The IPKat popped in to the Birkbeck/AHRB Copyright Network workshop on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Culture today.

He caught two contrasting papers:
*Jo Gibson of QMIPRI spoke on “Community and the Exhaustion of Culture: Creative Territories in Traditional Cultural Expressions”. Her presentation very much focused on the differences between the requirements of communities who want their cultural expressions protected and the traditional IP system. A particular point she made was that certain cultural expressions are “inimitable” because to reproduce them can render them inappropriate and exhaust their value to the community from which they originate. The IPKat isn’t happy with this idea. One of the fundamental premises of our IP system is that, in the long run, IP protection (particularly copyright) allows socially useful ideas to be shared. However, this idea of “exhaustion” of culture rests on the ideas that are protected being restricted to one group of people in perpetuity. While there may be a natural rights argument for protecting traditional knowledge from uncompensated third party exploitation, it strikes the IPKat that the protection being asked for is far more stringent than traditional IP. The IPKat reckons that a degree of compromise between the needs of traditional knowledge-holders and traditional IP is necessary.

*Daphne Zografos spoke about how the existing IP system can be used in order to protect traditional cultural expressions. Taking as her example Swiss efforts to protect the carnival masks of Lötschental, she explained how bilateral and even TRIPs protection of geographical indications can be used to protect traditional cultural expression. The name of the region where the expression originates can be registered as a geographical indication for various types of handicraft. The IPKat notes, as Daphne did, that this form of protection only goes so far. It will only protect the “label” of the region that the expression comes from but won’t protect the expression itself.

Merpel says, “IPKat, it’s time to get that facelift you were thinking about.”

The IPKat is seriously thinking of writing an article on this subject. Any perspectives/comments would be welcome.

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