About Intellectual Property IP Training IP Outreach IP for… IP and... IP in... Patent & Technology Information Trademark Information Industrial Design Information Geographical Indication Information Plant Variety Information (UPOV) IP Laws, Treaties & Judgements IP Resources IP Reports Patent Protection Trademark Protection Industrial Design Protection Geographical Indication Protection Plant Variety Protection (UPOV) IP Dispute Resolution IP Office Business Solutions Paying for IP Services Negotiation & Decision-Making Development Cooperation Innovation Support Public-Private Partnerships The Organization Working with WIPO Accountability Patents Trademarks Industrial Designs Geographical Indications Copyright Trade Secrets WIPO Academy Workshops & Seminars World IP Day WIPO Magazine Raising Awareness Case Studies & Success Stories IP News WIPO Awards Business Universities Indigenous Peoples Judiciaries Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions Economics Gender Equality Global Health Climate Change Competition Policy Sustainable Development Goals Enforcement Frontier Technologies Mobile Applications Sports Tourism PATENTSCOPE Patent Analytics International Patent Classification ARDI – Research for Innovation ASPI – Specialized Patent Information Global Brand Database Madrid Monitor Article 6ter Express Database Nice Classification Vienna Classification Global Design Database International Designs Bulletin Hague Express Database Locarno Classification Lisbon Express Database Global Brand Database for GIs PLUTO Plant Variety Database GENIE Database WIPO-Administered Treaties WIPO Lex - IP Laws, Treaties & Judgments WIPO Standards IP Statistics WIPO Pearl (Terminology) WIPO Publications Country IP Profiles WIPO Knowledge Center WIPO Technology Trends Global Innovation Index World Intellectual Property Report PCT – The International Patent System ePCT Budapest – The International Microorganism Deposit System Madrid – The International Trademark System eMadrid Article 6ter (armorial bearings, flags, state emblems) Hague – The International Design System eHague Lisbon – The International System of Appellations of Origin and Geographical Indications eLisbon UPOV PRISMA Mediation Arbitration Expert Determination Domain Name Disputes Centralized Access to Search and Examination (CASE) Digital Access Service (DAS) WIPO Pay Current Account at WIPO WIPO Assemblies Standing Committees Calendar of Meetings WIPO Official Documents Development Agenda Technical Assistance IP Training Institutions COVID-19 Support National IP Strategies Policy & Legislative Advice Cooperation Hub Technology and Innovation Support Centers (TISC) Technology Transfer Inventor Assistance Program WIPO GREEN WIPO's Pat-INFORMED Accessible Books Consortium WIPO for Creators WIPO ALERT Member States Observers Director General Activities by Unit External Offices Job Vacancies Procurement Results & Budget Financial Reporting Oversight

Traditional Cultural Expressions

Traditional cultural expressions (TCEs), also called "expressions of folklore", may include music, dance, art, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, architectural forms, handicrafts and narratives, or many other artistic or cultural expressions.

Traditional cultural expressions:

  • may be considered as the forms in which traditional culture is expressed;
  • form part of the identity and heritage of a traditional or indigenous community;
  • are passed down from generation to generation.

TCEs are integral to the cultural and social identities of indigenous and local communities, embody know-how and skills, and transmit core values and beliefs.

Their protection is related to the promotion of creativity, enhanced cultural diversity and the preservation of cultural heritage.

Traditionally dressed Timorese in the district of Alieu, Timor-Leste (Photo: UN Photo/M. Perret).

Traditional cultural expressions and intellectual property

For many communities, TCEs, traditional knowledge and associated genetic resources form part of a single integrated heritage. Yet, because TCEs raise some particular legal and policy questions in intellectual property (IP), they receive a distinct focus in many national and regional IP laws and in WIPO’s work.

TCEs can sometimes be protected by existing systems, such as copyright and related rights, geographical indications, appellations of origin and trademarks. For example, contemporary adaptations of folklore are copyrightable, while performances of traditional songs and music may come under the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty and Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances.

Trademarks can be used to identify authentic indigenous arts, as the Maori Arts Board in New Zealand, Te Waka Toi, has done. Some countries also have special legislation for the protection of folklore.

WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore is negotiating international legal protection of TCEs.

  • UNESCO-WIPO Model Provisions for National Laws PDF, UNESCO-WIPO Model Provisions for National Laws