World Intellectual Property Organization

Traditional Knowledge

Traditional knowledge is the living body of knowledge passed on from generation to generation within a community. It often forms part of a people’s cultural or spiritual identity and encompasses traditional knowledge (TK), genetic resources (GRs), and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).

As an organic and evolving entity, TK can be difficult to define and adequately protect within the current intellectual property (IP) system. WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) is tasked with developing an international IP instrument to help better protect TK.

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Delegates attending the Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (Photo: WIPO).

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Traditional Knowledge Updates – Regular news and resources about intellectual property & traditional knowledge; and IGC updates.

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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/Mark Garten)

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/Forte)

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.

Seminars and workshops

We organize both seminars and practical workshops on IP and genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. Our seminars are designed as opportunities for member states and observers to discuss policy issues and exchange experiences in a less formal setting

Our practical workshops are addressed to government officials and indigenous peoples and local communities. These multi-stakeholder workshops share knowledge, build understanding and foster coordination within and between countries. These practical workshops have no formal outcomes.

Indigenous representatives at a workshop held in Apia, Samoa from December 8 to 10, 2015 (photo: WIPO).

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Distance learning course

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.

Hands-on training program

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).

Video: Digitizing Traditional Culture in Kenya.

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