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11 Cardozo J. Int'l & Comp. L. 785 (2003-2004)
Traditional Medical Knowledge, Intellectual Property Rights & (and) Benefit Sharing

handle is hein.journals/cjic11 and id is 795 raw text is: TRADITIONAL MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE,
Dr. Gerard Bodeker*
The past decade has seen a rising storm of international de-
bate and legal challenge over the patenting of traditional knowl-
edge (TK) and its products, such as grain species, traditional
medicines, traditional art images, music and rituals. Two conflict-
ing forces at the heart of this have been: the attempt from non-
indigenous individuals and organizations to claim ownership of in-
digenous knowledge and commercial gain; the other has been from
indigenous groups to fend off this trend and to either take owner-
ship of such products themselves or to engage in partnership with
fair sharing of benefits for the commercial development of their
knowledge, products or processes.'
From the early 1990's to the present, this set of issues has
played out in international legal forums, corporate boardrooms,
political debates and, occasionally, street demonstrations. At the
heart of this conflict lies a perception that the patenting of indige-
nous knowledge represents an inversion of the intent of the patent-
ing system. In contrast to the intent of patent systems to provide
protection to individual knowledge so that it can be brought out
into the public domain for the public good, the patenting of indige-
nous knowledge may be seen as the reverse: taking knowledge that
is already in the public domain and using legal means to place it
into the private domain for the financial gain of a limited few.
Traditional (i.e. indigenous) medicine has received prominent
attention in the past decade as pharmaceutical companies have
viewed traditional medicines as possible sources of potent mole-
cules that may be replicated synthetically and patented as sources
* University of Oxford Medical School & Chair, Global Initiative For Traditional Sys-
tems (GIFTS) of Health, Oxford, UK Email: <gerry.bodeker@medschool.ox.ac.uk>
1 Graham Dutfield, Trade-Related Aspects of Traditional Knowledge, 33 CASE W. RES.
J. INT'L. L. 239 (2001).


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