Protection of Traditional Knowledge under International and Ethiopian Law with a Particular Reference to Traditional Medical Knowledge: Current Trends, Prospects and Challenges

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Addis Ababa University


This thesis, reviews and analyzes different international agreements and initiatives, and examines the legal environment and policies of Ethiopia relevant to the protection of Traditional Knowledge (TK) with a particular reference to Traditional Medical Knowledge (TMK). It also assesses inherent and possible problems of existing and potential modalities of protection considering the experiences of some countries, so as to suggest different option that could be applied to protect TK/TMK. Analysis of different instruments and initiatives reveals the fact that there is no single system of legal protection of TK/TMK adopted and proposed both at the national and international level. At the international level little concrete progress has been achieved to protect TK. Multiple practical and theoretical reasons are identified as challenges to reach effective international legal regime for the protection of TK/TMK. The principal factors, inter alia, include difficulty to endorse „one size fits all‟ legal machinery to the great diversity of TK systems and variation of interests among different countries and groups. In Ethiopia little work has been performed yet to protect TK/TMK and little information is available on TMK system of Ethiopia. There is no comprehensive legal regime to effectively protect TMK in Ethiopia. The only national legal regime to protect TK/TMK- Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) legislation- fails to address individually held TMK, and this thesis calls for the amendment of ABS law to recognize and protect individually held TKs in consultation with relevant stakeholders. The thesis argues that Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) and/or similar exclusive property rights are not appropriate tools to protect TMK of Ethiopia as it stands now. And it suggests that employing a bundle of mechanisms i.e. benefit sharing, confidential documentation and introduction of mandatory disclosure requirement- is the best alternative to achieve the objectives Ethiopia sought from protecting TMK. Key words: Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Medical Knowledge, Intellectual Property, Access and Benefit Sharing, Sui generis, Documentation



analyzes different international, agreements and initiatives