World Intellectual Property Organization

Traditional Knowledge

The term “traditional knowledge” is used here as shorthand for the entire field of traditional knowledge (TK), genetic resources (GRs) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).

Negotiations are currently underway in the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore towards the development of an international legal instrument or instruments for the effective protection of traditional cultural expressions and traditional knowledge, and to address the intellectual property aspects of access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources.

Access the Indigenous Portal
IGC delegates in consultation
(Photo: WIPO)

Intergovernmental Committee (IGC)

All information related to the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.


Traditional knowledge

A living body of knowledge that is developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation within a community, often forming part of its cultural or spiritual identity.

(Photo: UN Photo/M. Perret)

Traditional cultural expressions

Forms in which traditional culture is expressed; passed down from generation to generation, they form part of the identity and heritage of a traditional or indigenous community.

(Photo: UN Photo/M. Perret)

Genetic resources

Genetic material, which are any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin containing functional units of heredity, of actual or potential value.

Technical assistance and capacity building


  • The Cultural Documentation and IP Management Training Program offers hands-on training for Indigenous Peoples and local communities on how to safeguard their music, performances, art, designs and other traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).
  • The Advanced Distance Learning Course on IP, TK and TCEs provides technical information on key concepts and international, regional and national experiences, policy options and legal mechanisms available or under consideration for intellectual property protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.

Video: Digitizing Traditional Culture in Kenya.


The TK Documentation Toolkit provides practical guidance on how to undertake a TK documentation exercise.


Explore WIPO