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The protection of the knowledge and practises of local and indigenous groups has been discussed in various forums in recent times. International agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity address the importance of protecting traditional knowledge and practises, recognizing that this knowledge bears immense value in terms of its contribution to the conservation of biological diversity and its inputs to R&D in various fields. Experiences of the past, prominently the use of the Neem tree and the Turmeric plant, show that the benefits of traditional knowledge applications are allocated mainly to the follow-on developers and rarely to the original suppliers of the knowledge and practises. In the long term, this may result in restricted access to traditional knowledge to the detriment of social welfare.
The book examines traditional knowledge protection in the area of traditional medical knowledge, often utilised in contemporary medicine, and consequently subject to patent protection. It provides a comparative view of the current patent regimes in major economies, specifically the US and the EU, and the consequences of the application of these laws to traditional medical knowledge and follow-on innovation, as well as the impact on underlying economic principles and opposing interests. The economic analysis of law is used to evaluate the current situation by comparing the effects of adapted patent regimes to alternative liability regimes or contractual agreements. This comparative and interdisciplinary approach taken gives valuable insights and inputs for future discussion.