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

Intellectual property key terms: Indigenous rights

Indigenous rights

According to IP, this term refers to the acknowledgement that should be given to indigenous cultures of any country. Not strictly a legal term, it refers to the respect that should be given to other people's beliefs.

Indigenous rights often arise in connection with 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.

Why indigenous cultures are not protected

Because indigenious cultures have been in existence for hundreds of years, they are not protected by New Zealand's current intellectual property legal system. The intellectual property system protects developed ideas for only a certain term of years. After that time, they become part of the public domain where 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.

Some thoughts about this kaupapa

Some believe a new system should be developed to give legal protections to traditional culture. According to this view, the respect owed to some traditional cultures should mean that their artifacts should be protected and kept out of the public domain.

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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