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Human Rights Approach to the Protection of Traditional Knowledge: An Appraisal of Draft Nordic Saami Convention

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AbstractTraditional knowledge offfers significant contribution to the intellectual creations. While authors of intellectual creations are protected within the intellectual property rights regime, the authors of traditional knowledge, however, are not. Intellectual property rights regime offfers certain exclusive rights over the innovations of private authors leaving holders of traditional knowledge aside. Given the collective nature of knowledge held traditionally by a community, and unknown in the intellectual property rights system, traditional knowledge faces complexity to be included within the existing intellectual property rights system, and hence, demands alternative protection regime. This article argues human rights approach as an alternative protection regime for the traditional knowledge – the knowledge mostly held by the indigenous communities. The article examines specific human rights provisions embodied in the international bill of human rights pertaining to both right to enjoy a culture and right to enjoy ‘moral and material’ interests arguing that traditional knowledge form a part of culture, and that such culture-oriented right generates economic interests akin to that of intellectual property right system, albeit within the framework of human rights. While the Saami are the indigenous people holding diverse traditional knowledge of great importance, the article also addresses the specific provisions of the Draft Nordic Saami Convention in order to examine how efffectively the Saami’s traditional knowledge right is protected within the regime of human rights.

Affiliations: 1: Northern Institute for Environmental and Minority Law, Arctic Centre, University of


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