How can we protect communities whose indigenous knowledge could form the basis for commercial exploitation?

How can we protect communities whose indigenous knowledge could form the basis for commercial exploitation? 2016-11-24T14:34:57+00:00

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Science Talk
Presenter: Prof Julian Kinderlerer, Cape Town University, South Africa
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A bill to provide for the protection, promotion, development and management of indigenous knowledge systems is currently before Parliament.  It assures that communities that possess, use and evolve indigenous knowledge are compensated if others seek to commercialise that knowledge. What is indigenous knowledge? Is this knowledge that of a community, or can members and former members of the community use it for financial gain? Should such knowledge be protected from both commercial and non-commercial use by outsiders without recompense to the community?

Knowledge involves accretion, that each new understanding is built on that which went before. Nevertheless, those who create or invent should benefit from their addition to the sum of human knowledge. What all societies have done is to allow those who do invent or create the right to prevent others from using their ‘inventions’ for a limited time after which that ‘creation’ falls within the public domain to be used freely. How do we then acknowledge indigenous knowledge, which has been used for generations? We must bridge the gap between indigenous knowledge which it is widely accepted should be protected and from which some recompense is payable to the community and the way in which we treat knowledge accretion.

This knowledge is part of a culture and way of life. Where communities wish for their knowledge to be available for commercialisation they could be expected to register it. Perhaps it is only the commercial use that should result in recompense to the community, and hence should be remunerated? Hence, a compromise in which a non-transferable licence is available is suggested. To bring the remuneration into line with the concepts of Intellectual Property law the licence requires a royalty payable for the same term as would have been the case for IP, after which the same individual can continue to use the knowledge without further payment.
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kinderlererProf Julian Kinderlerer
Cape Town University, South Africa
Presenter

Julian Kinderlerer is the immediate past president of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE), reporting to the President of the European Commission, the Council and the Parliament on ethical issues at their request or on the EGE’s own initiative. He is emeritus professor of Intellectual Property Law at the University of Cape Town, is a former professor of Biotechnology and Society at the Delft University of technology in the Netherlands and was the Director of the Sheffield Institute of Biotechnology Law and Ethics within the University of Sheffield, UK. He initially graduated from the University of Cape Town in Chemistry and mathematics before obtaining his PhD in biochemistry from Cambridge. He has acted as the specialist adviser to a House of Lords Committee on regulation of biotechnology, and during 2000 was a Director at UNEP assisting developing countries draft regulatory systems for the release of GM organisms into the environment. He has recently chaired a group advising the SA government on drafting a new law on indigenous knowledge which is being debated in the Parliament having worked with the DST on ethics and synthetic biology, nanotechnology and on a database policy for indigenous knowledge. Amongst other Opinions drafted by the EGE and at the request of the then President of the European Commission the EGE produced two substantive opinions on the ethics of information and communication technologies and on the ethics of surveillance and security systems during its last mandate. Julian has also been involved in producing opinions on ethics of modern developments in agricultural technologies and in the producing an ethical framework for assessing research, production and use of energy.
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