Indigenous Peoples and Intellectual Property

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

The intersection of the intellectual property (IP) system and the protection of Indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions is receiving increasing attention within Indigenous communities in Canada, among government policy-makers and in international trade and policy fora. Indigenous peoples have a particular stake in this area as it relates to their broader interests in protecting their knowledge and culture and ensuring its appropriate use.

In spring 2018, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development announced the Intellectual Property Strategy as part of Canada's Innovation and Skills Plan. Building on the Government of Canada's commitments to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and to recognize Indigenous rights, the Strategy includes initiatives aimed at making Canada's IP system more inclusive and reflective of the needs and interests of Indigenous peoples.

Learn more about IP and how it relates to Indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions in our Introduction to Intellectual Property Rights and the Protection of Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Expressions in Canada. This information is also available in Inuktitut PDF - 329 KB, Plains Cree PDF - 370 KB, Ojibwe PDF - 332 KB, and Michif PDF - 196 KB and will soon be available in Mi'kmaq.

Intellectual property awareness and use by Indigenous small and medium-sized enterprises

IP protections, services and resources remain widely underutilized by Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs across Canada. Work to collect data on the awareness and use of IP protections, services and resources by Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs has started and results are expected to be published by winter 2020.

Indigenous Intellectual Property Program

A newly created grant program supports Indigenous peoples' IP awareness and capacity building as well as participation in the development and implementation of law, policy and programs at both the domestic and international level relating to the relationship between IP and the protection of Indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions. The program was launched by the Minister on April 26, 2019.

Domestic engagement

  • Information sharing workshop on recognizing, promoting and protecting traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions organized by the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), March 1, 2019, Native Canadian Centre of Toronto
  • Practical workshop on intellectual property, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions for countries from the Arctic region organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization and the Government of Canada, May 14-16, 2019, Iqaluit

World Intellectual Property Organization Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (WIPO IGC)

Canada participates in negotiations at WIPO IGC to conclude one or more legal instrument(s), for the protection of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources.

The Canadian delegation organizes a meeting with accredited observers and Indigenous representative organizations prior to each WIPO IGC session.

On April 26, 2019, the Minister announced a grant to the WIPO Voluntary Fund to support participation of Indigenous representatives from around the world in the negotiations.

Education and awareness raising

The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is developing targeted materials and programs in partnership with Indigenous organizations, business, academia and regional offices.

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