A recent report has revealed what is important to Indigenous Australians when it comes to considering how the IP system can help protect Indigenous Knowledge.

Indigenous Knowledge includes Traditional Knowledge being know how, practices, techniques and skills; and Traditional Cultural Expressions being visual imagery, performance, design, words and names

The Federal Government, in conjunction with IP Australia, published the consultation report, Protection of Indigenous Knowledge in the Intellectual Property System following six months of consultations that included Macpherson Kelley’s Mark Metzeling attending the Brisbane roundtable session.

The report reveals the following issues of importance:

  • Control – Indigenous people want to be able to control who uses Indigenous Knowledge and how it is used.
  • Protection – Indigenous people are seeking measures that can prevent unauthorised use of their knowledge and impose sanctions against misappropriation.
  • Recognition – Indigenous people want to be recognised as the owners of their Indigenous knowledge.
  • Respect – Indigenous people want their ownership of Indigenous knowledge and the cultural protocols associated with it to be respected.

It’s important to note that the Federal Government hasn’t drafted, or issued a statement that it intends to draft, any legislation addressing these issues at present.

However, IP Australia is looking to adopt the following measures to encourage change in this area, and increase awareness and understanding about the use and misappropriation of Indigenous Knowledge:

  1. Development of additional communications material – to better educate all Australians about Control, Protection, Recognition and Respect. This will be in addition to IP Australia’s existing brochure Nanga Mai Arung / Dream Shield, which is a guide to protecting intellectual property for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  2. Development of a work plan – to progress other proposals based on stakeholder views.
  3. Continual engagement and consultation with stakeholders and interested parties to progress the identification and implementation of a solution that is acceptable to Indigenous Australians.

Whether these measures have an impact on situations such as the Birubi art case which involved non-indigenous art being sold as indigenous art is yet to be seen.