Governments and corporations have begun to realize the commercial value of traditional culture, knowledge, and biogenetic resources of indigenous, traditional, and local people.
At the United Nations Conference on Environmental and Development (the Earth Summit, UNCED) where the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was developed, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade laid out a discussion for the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. In other words, at this Earth Summit, the concept of using IPR to protect Indigenous peoples was introduced.
The following is a brief list of various forms of IP protection that may be used to protect TK: Patents, Petty Patents, Copyright, Trademarks, industrial Designs, Trade Secrets, Plant Breeders’ Rights, Geographic Indications and Appellations of Origin, Certification and Labeling.
Extending IP rights, which were established in European and North American law, to indigenous persons is complex.
In indigenous cultures the collective of tribal members communally own ideas and knowledge. IPRs, however, require privatization and commoditization of ideas. Furthermore, most indigenous tribes that are culturally intact do not rely on money, but rather barter for necessary goods. Compensating indigenous persons with money may only lead to the further erosion of cultural lifeways. Protecting Traditional Knowledge requires a multifaceted approach. The underlying issue most Indigenous persons face is loss of land, habitat, and marginalization by their mother country.