According to an October 31, 2004 report in "Managing Intellectual Property," a last week's annual International Bar Association (IBA) conference included the following exchange over the commercial exploitation of the traditional knowledge held by indigenous communities.
"Businesses are appropriating Maori culture as a way of adding value to commercial products that range from alcohol to computer games and rugby to airlines," said Maori barrister Maui Solomon. Who owns traditional knowledge? We do.
"You can know something secret, but as soon as you share that information with someone else, you can't own it. Knowledge should be shared but exploitation of it can be controlled through IP rights," replied Bo Hammer Jensen of Danish biotech company Novozymes. "Without industry the benefits [of traditional knowledge] will be smaller."
Watch for similar exchanges at this week's Seventh Session of WIPO's Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore in Geneva, Switzerland.