Mca Presentation March 20, 2009


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Presentation to Aboriginal Tourism BC members regarding Traditional Knowledge Protection - Domestically and Internationally

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Mca Presentation March 20, 2009

  1. 1. Traditional Knowledge: Legal Protection at the Local, Provincial, National and International Level Merle Alexander Tsimshian Nation Chair of the Aboriginal Practice Group – Boughton Law
  2. 2. <ul><li>Aboriginal lawyer from Kitasoo Xai’xais First Nation (Klemtu, BC) </li></ul><ul><li>Partner at Vancouver law firm, Chair Aboriginal Practice Group – 7 Aboriginal lawyers – largest in Canada </li></ul><ul><li>SD law –Aboriginal/ Environmental/Business </li></ul><ul><li>Indigenous Peoples Advocate – WIPO and CBD for over a decade </li></ul>
  3. 3. Outline <ul><li>Introduction </li></ul><ul><li>Traditional Knowledge Generally </li></ul><ul><li>Protocols </li></ul><ul><li>IP Options </li></ul><ul><li>Sui Generis Options </li></ul><ul><li>Questions? </li></ul>
  4. 4. Introduction <ul><li>An Aboriginal lawyer from the Tsimshian community of Kitasoo Xai’xais on the mid–coast of British Columbia practicing sustainable development law. </li></ul><ul><li>Key area of my legal practice is the protection, preservation, and maintenance of traditional knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>International: Represent Aboriginal Peoples organizations at Working Groups established under the CBD and WIPO. </li></ul><ul><li>National: Informal national Indigenous network. </li></ul><ul><li>Local: Develop traditional knowledge protocols for a variety of purposes – academic, natural resource companies and government to government relationships. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Traditional Knowledge Generally <ul><li>Community level – hundreds of Aboriginal communities are attempting to preserve, maintain and protect their traditional knowledge for a wide variety of purposes. </li></ul><ul><li>Domestically: legal issues regarding traditional knowledge for academic research, Government–to–Government consultations and Aboriginal–Industry relationships are becoming increasingly important. </li></ul><ul><li>Internationally: at least 11 international treaty areas have substantive traditional knowledge–related components. </li></ul><ul><li>At all levels, there is no agreed definition. </li></ul><ul><li>Some Indigenous Peoples are reluctant to accept the term “traditional” as it implies something frozen in the past; static and unable to develop. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Traditional Knowledge Generally (cont’d) <ul><li>My approach is an Aboriginal rights–based approach to traditional knowledge protection. </li></ul><ul><li>Based upon the Supreme Court of Canada comments: “to ensure the continuity of aboriginal practices, customs and traditions, a substantive aboriginal right will normally include the incidental right to teach such a practice, custom and tradition to a younger generation.” </li></ul><ul><li>In other words, each constitutionally–protected Aboriginal/treaty right is integrally linked to the traditional knowledge that ensures its continuation between generations. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Protocols <ul><li>The development of a traditional knowledge protocol for clients arose from involvement in cultural heritage projects, traditional land use studies and a variety of academic contexts. </li></ul><ul><li>There was no precedent that took an Aboriginal–rights based approach. </li></ul><ul><li>Based on a variety of existing contract types drawing from privacy; administrative and Aboriginal law. </li></ul><ul><li>Developed over extensive consultations with Aboriginal leaders and community consultations </li></ul>
  8. 8. Need for a Template <ul><li>No precedent = no minimal standard, no best practice. </li></ul><ul><li>Increases the likelihood that among Aboriginal groups their agreements will not contain minimum requirements to ensure that legal rights to ownership, prior informed consent, privacy and confidentiality are sufficiently protected. </li></ul><ul><li>A template intends to set an evolving better practice to be adapted to each First Nations’ context. </li></ul><ul><li>It cannot be adopted without community consultation and mindful reflection on the specific First Nation’s governance of their traditional knowledge. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Highlights of the Protocol <ul><li>Acknowledgement of prior rights and right of self–determination; </li></ul><ul><li>Inseparable nature of traditional knowledge from Aboriginal right; </li></ul><ul><li>First Nation’s participatory rights; </li></ul><ul><li>Right to prior informed consent throughout the term of the project and ongoing basis; </li></ul><ul><li>General duty of confidentiality; </li></ul><ul><li>Specific provisions dealing with Sacred sites, medicines and other sensitive matters; and </li></ul><ul><li>Non–derogation of Aboriginal rights, titles, and interests. </li></ul>
  10. 10. IP Options <ul><li>There are a variety of contemporary intellectual property ( “IP”) tools at an Aboriginal group’s disposal including trade secrets, trademarks, copyright and moral rights. </li></ul><ul><li>TRADE SECRETS </li></ul><ul><li>Easy – don’t tell anyone the secret ingredient, sacred place, spiritual name, ceremonial meaning. </li></ul><ul><li>Often dealt with by strict confidentiality arrangements. </li></ul><ul><li>Requires a great deal of control and management by the Aboriginal group to ensure that your own people do not disclose. </li></ul><ul><li>If you don’t keep it secret, the best confidentiality agreement is unenforceable. You set the standard of secrecy. </li></ul>
  11. 11. IP Options <ul><li>TRADEMARK </li></ul><ul><li>Official marks under section 9 of the trademark act protects names, symbols and images of “public authorities”. </li></ul><ul><li>Generally, you must prove you are a government or controlled by a government. </li></ul><ul><li>Use of the protection ensures that names like “First Nations Summit”, “Kaska”, “Nisga’a Lisims Government” and Snuneymuxw – petroglyphs. </li></ul><ul><li>Trademark on steroids. </li></ul>
  12. 12. Copyright <ul><li>Very limited protection from an Aboriginal collective ownership perspective. </li></ul><ul><li>Copyright focuses on the individual in statute and common law. </li></ul><ul><li>Many First Nations and Aboriginal groups have their logos designed by Aboriginal artists. </li></ul><ul><li>The artist has a common law copyright, not the First Nation. </li></ul><ul><li>The Aboriginal group must get an assignment agreement transfer the artist copyright back to its proper owner. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Sui Generis Options <ul><li>Locally, domestically and internationally there are many proposals to develop stand alone legislation and international treaties to develop sui generis solutions to the failure of IP. </li></ul><ul><li>WIPO: developed Draft Guidelines for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>Suggestions for Aboriginal Names legislations. </li></ul><ul><li>NZ – amendments to trademark legislation to allow for review of offensive trademarks and the Maori Made symbol. </li></ul><ul><li>Locally – many community’s are exploring development of self government based laws protecting cultural heritage. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Questions Merle Alexander Boughton Law 700-595 Burrard St. Vancouver BC, V7X 1S8 +16046474145 [email_address]