Traditional Knowledge Alison Page & John Watson – Aboriginal elder
John Watson - Aboriginal elder: I went fishing with my brother, and um, we knew the crocodile was there and we were trying to catch him you know? And ah, we couldn't catch him but he caught me!
Alison Page: Aboriginal people have been living off the land for thousands of years. Our ancient knowledge of plants and animals can be commercially valuable. A few years ago an aboriginal man from the Kimberley region lost his finger hunting crocodiles, as you do. Now he was a long way from medical help so he used the bark from the marjarla plant to treat his wound. Not only was it a great pain killer but it also got his community thinking about its commercial potential.
John Watson - Aboriginal elder: He took that (Shows his finger) and I didn't know he'd taken it. Then I can see the water is read and it's my blood. So um, then when I pulled it out of the water the wind hit it and it was painful. Marjarla tree, for years we used to use when the fish poke you. You chew it up and spit it on your finger and it starts numbing your finger. This is coming from our wonyible story, it's part of the nigina creation stories.
Alison Page: Creating IP from traditional knowledge has allot of complex legal and cultural issues. Mark Allen, legal representative of the community understands how tricky it is to protect traditional knowledge.
Mark Allen - Lawyer: When the community is looking to partner with a researcher they need to exercise great caution. The first thing is to find out what each parties expectations are to make sure they are aligned. The next thing is to record that relationship in writing so there is a written record of why the parties are entering into a relationship and that will then drive what each party is going to required to do under the relationship and what their rights are. And then come back and review that relationship periodically.
John Watson - Aboriginal elder: Paul took it to GriffithUniversity and it's been pushed around there and tested with the mice you know, and I saw that.
Mark Allen - Lawyer: An indigenous community that is entering into a commercialisation arrangement needs to think of three things. It need to think about the person who has the knowledge within the community and had that person given consent to the utilisation of the knowledge, so it's quite important that that person is identified and that's going to be important to the third party as well. The next thing is to make sure the consent that is given is an informed consent and that means that the person giving consent understands what they are giving consent about and what the consequences are. And then, the third plank is to make sure that there is a benefit sharing arrangement, which mean that there is a clear understanding of what benefit is going to flow to the community from the commercialisation process.
John Watson - Aboriginal elder: Not only does it stop you from bleeding but the pain, also we use it for the pain that we get in our hips or in our back. Some time you drink it, drink a little bit as long as you don't drink too much. A black fella knows how much to drink you know?
Alison Page: traditional knowledge has a lot to offer but consider the ethical and cultural implications before you register your IP. If you choose to Patent something remember it goes on the public record for everyone to see and after 20 years anyone can use it. So another way to protect it is to keep it a secret, it's up to you to choose.
For more information on Patents and traditional knowledge call IP Australia, your business advisor or a Patent attorney.
Last Updated: 11/12/2012