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Ministry of Education.
Kaua e rangiruatia te hāpai o te hoe; e kore to tātou waka e ū ki uta

Intellectual property in Technology teaching: Brief definitions: Indigenous rights

Indigenous rights

In respect of IP this term is used to describe the acknowledgement that is due to the culture of the indigenous people of any country. It is not strictly a legal term but refers more to the respect that should be given to other people's beliefs.

Indigenous rights are considered to arise in connection with things like traditional knowledge (for example, the healing properties of native plants), folklore, artistic works, and traditional performances, including dance and folk music. The haka and the poi dance are New Zealand examples of indigenous culture. Other countries have their own indigenous culture.

These things are not protected by our current intellectual property legal system because they have been in existence for hundreds of years and the intellectual property system only protects developed ideas for a certain term of years. After that time they become part of the public domain and anyone can use them for free. Another reason why traditional culture is not protected is because it is difficult for the law to decide who should own it.

Many people think this situation is wrong and that some new system should be developed to give legal protections to traditional culture. They believe that the respect and honour owed to some traditional culture should mean that it is never permitted to become part of the public domain for anyone to use in any way they choose.

New Zealand is leading the world in one aspect of recognising indigenous rights: in our trade mark law, a mark cannot be registered if it is considered to be offensive to any section of the New Zealand community, including Māori.

Developed for the Technology Online site from a study by Susan Corbett, Louise Starkey and Ann Bondy, Victoria University of Wellington

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