Around the world there are various communities that possess knowledge which is gained by them through experience and through inheritance transferred from generation to generation. This inherited knowledge can be said as Traditional Knowledge. The Traditional Knowledge is a very broad term or concept which includes within itself indigenous knowledge related to various categories like agricultural knowledge, medicinal knowledge; bio diversity related knowledge as well as expressions of folklore in the form of music, dance, songs, handicraft, designs etc. It has played and still plays an important role in the lifestyle of many indigenous communities.

In this age of globalization both modern and traditional knowledge are at risk. The amount of unfair exploitation of Indigenous knowledge depends on the fact that the traditional knowledge holders lack awareness about the present legal system to seek compensation in case of infringement of their rights. It has been realised by international communities that national initiatives alone are incapable for TK protection. World nations are currently engaged in extensive discussion on preservation of traditional knowledge under various international institutions

This paper will discuss the international and national scenario as well as initiatives taken regarding protection of traditional knowledge.


Traditional Knowledge is dynamic in nature and it is difficult to coin a concise definition for the term which will cover all aspects it holds.[1]

As per the official definition of WIPO[2]” traditional knowledge is tradition-based literary, artistic or scientific works; performances; inventions; scientific discoveries; designs; marks, names and symbols; undisclosed information; and all other tradition-based innovations and creations resulting from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary or artistic fields”. ”Tradition based” here refers to creations, innovations, and cultural expression which have been transferred from generation to generation. TK is the part of cultural identity of indigenous communities. It provides the ways by which human society can survive in current hostile environment. Intertwined within practical solution, they transmit history, beliefs, aesthetics, ethics and traditions of particular people.

Need for Protection of Traditional Knowledge

There are several ways through one can protect their tangible property but there are only some ways through which a person can protect his intangible property i.e. intellect or knowledge They require some more effective mechanisms like patents, copyrights, trademarks, geographical indicators etc.

Indigenous people possess immense understanding relating their complex ecosystems, properties of plants and animals and technique required for using them based on their living.

 Many of the indigenous communities are living on the basis of the knowledge they preserved for generations. The development of new technologies and the use of traditional knowledge are posing serious threat to the survival of these communities. The modern industries are now a day’s exploiting indigenous knowledge without permission or sharing of profit with these communities[3]

Another factor that calls for protection of TK is to maintain the practices and knowledge derived from traditional life styles. Preservation of TK is intended to provide self identification to these indigenous communities and thereby provide continuous existence of indigenous people[4].

The Traditional Knowledge is very dynamic in nature and as this is passed from one generation to another. As the process of formation of traditional knowledge may not be systematically documented in a way the scientific work is recorded. So because of this Patents have been granted to non original innovations which are already a part of traditional knowledge.

Traditional Knowledge under International Scenario

Many Countries worldwide including international organisations are working on how to address such issue at international and national levels. It has been discussed on different forums such as WIPO, UNCTAD etc. they have each other also conducted joint studies in the area of protection of indigenous communities . Some of the international conventions or agreements for the purpose protection of traditional knowledge and Indigenous communities are Convention on Biological Diversity, TRIPS Agreement, UPOV Convention, UN declaration on Rights of Indigenous persons, Nagoya Protocol on Access to genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising From their Utilization , WIPO (The Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge),

Traditional Knowledge under Indian Scenario

India is home for many bio resources as well as many indigenous communities possessing traditional knowledge for years. These are some initiatives are taken on the Indian part to protect traditional knowledge such as Protection of Plants and Farmers Right Act, 2001, Biological Diversity Act, 2002, National Bio Diversity Authority, The Patent ( Amendment) Act , 2005.


With a purpose to reward the innovators of new inventions IP rights are given. IP rights promote growth. As we have seen Indigenous communities possess traditional Knowledge which within itself has a great commercial and economic value. The current IP Regime fails to protect the rights of such community based knowledge.

In the present era traditional knowledge is misused blatantly by granting of patent for TK based products without recognizing or giving importance to interests of indigenous communities. Such issue relating to Tk is very wide and can’t be resolved with one solution. A multiple complementary measures are required of this. Efforts should also be taken for the promotion of TK. The possessors of traditional knowledge holds a moral right to their  knowledge. But while making such statement we should not forget that development of such communities will led to development of a country. Thus main concern of protection of traditional knowledge should be regarding sustainable use of indigenous knowledge and benefit sharing.

[1] Srinivas Krishna Ravi, Traditional knowledge and intellectual Property Rights: A note on issues, some solutions and some suggestion –Page 3, available at SSRN

[2]Information note on traditional knowledge prepared by International Bureau of WIPO available @WIPO/IPTK/MCT/02//INF/3

[3] Tripathi SK Intellectual property and genetic resources, traditional Knowledge Folklore: International, regional and national perspectives, trends and strategies, Journal of Intellectual Property Rights, Vol 8, pages 468-477

[4] Correa Carlos M, Traditional Knowledge and intellectual property, pages 6 and 7, available