Documentation of Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions

The documentation of traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) is a process in which TK and TCEs are identified, collected, organized, registered or recorded.

From an intellectual property (IP) perspective, a documentation exercise needs to be undertaken within a framework of sound objectives and principles, and guided by a clear assessment of the risks and potential benefits, particularly for indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs).

Upon request, WIPO provides information on the IP implications of documenting TK and TCEs to governments, IPLCs and cultural institutions wishing or required to document TK and TCEs.

Areas of our work

Community documentation of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions

WIPO provides practical guidance, upon request, to IPLCs on how to undertake TK and TCEs documentation projects and how to address critical issues relating to intellectual property (IP) as they arise during the documentation project.


Museums, libraries and archives

Museums, libraries, archives and other cultural institutions play an invaluable role in preserving and providing access to their collections.

Collections of TK and TCEs raise a specific set of intellectual property (IP) issues. Some IPLCs are concerned that documenting and displaying TK and TCEs may make them vulnerable to misappropriation and misuse.

On request, WIPO provides information to cultural institutions on the management of IP rights and interests with a specific focus on collections comprising TK and TCEs.


Defensive protection of traditional knowledge

Defensive protection refers to a set of strategies to ensure that third parties do not gain illegitimate or unfounded IP rights over TK. These measures include the amendment of WIPO-administered patent systems (the International Patent Classification system and the Patent Cooperation Treaty Minimum Documentation). Some countries and IPLCs are also developing TK databases that may be used as evidence of prior art to defeat a claim to a patent on such TK.


Report on the Compilation of Materials on Databases Relating to Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge (WIPO/GRTKF/IC/40/9) PDF, title goes here