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No acknowledgement of collective ownership of intellectual property of indigenous peoples


Globally, Indigenous Peoples have disproportionately experienced the adverse consequences of colonization. They face discrimination and marginalization because of their distinct cultures and ways of life. It is a fundamental human right that Indigenous Peoples maintain, control, protect and develop their intellectual property, including traditional knowledge, cultural expression and cultural heritage.


In many countries (particularly Western nations), intellectual property laws protect individual property rights. This is a result of the commercialization of knowledge and products that can foster economic growth. However, these laws are limited in their ability to recognize and protect collective ownership. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was introduced to reduce threats to the maintenance and enjoyment of culture. Failing to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples’ collective ownership of intellectual property breaches the Declaration, and may lead to a loss of identity and culture.


Businesses should adopt the standards in the Declaration through policy statements or guidelines. Businesses should be respectful of Indigenous Peoples’ intellectual property, and actively acknowledge their ownership.

Relevant Human Rights Instruments

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2007,
Articles 11(2) and 31(1)




SDG 1.4

Acknowledging the collective ownership of Indigenous Peoples' intellectual property helps to achieve SDG 1.4: By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.

SDG 10


SDG 10.2

Acknowledging Indigenous Peoples' intellectual property rights also helps to achieve SDG 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status.

SDG 10.3
Acknowledging these rights of Indigenous Peoples also assists SDG 10.3: Ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard.

SDG 11


SDG 11.4

Observing the intellectual property rights of Indigenous Peoples helps to achieve SDG 11.4: Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.