Legal protection for traditional knowledge raises difficult questions at the intersection of innovation policy and knowledge governance, with important implications for Indigenous peoples’ rights. A significant source of tension has been the difficulty in delineating entitlement interests in traditional knowledge consistent with prevailing doctrinal limits to intellectual property rights, such as the public domain. This paper advances the idea that, properly applied, the public domain does not constitute a barrier to the effective protection of traditional knowledge, and that a thoughtfully designed, custom-built public domain for traditional knowledge would align traditional knowledge protection with the overall architecture of the global innovation framework.

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CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.
  • Ruth Okediji is a CIGI senior fellow and an expert on international intellectual property, traditional knowledge and genetic resources.