Indigenous Knowledge initiatives

We're committed to providing an intellectual property (IP) system that helps promote and protect the knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Here's what we're doing to support this.  

How Indigenous Knowledge is protected

To better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we're looking at how Indigenous Knowledge (IK) is protected to identify what's working and what can be improved.

Why we started

As part of our IK work, we've consulted with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and heard:

  • That our IP system has gaps when it comes to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' expectations about how IK should be used
  • About the important of consultation and consent when IK is being used.

With this in mind, we're looking at changes and how to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to:

  • Empower people to protect their IK
  • Educate businesses looking to work with IK
  • Promote the benefits of IK protection.

What we've done so far

We've commissioned research and run consultations with Indigenous and non-Indigenous people from a range of sectors and backgrounds. We invited them to share their views on our IP system and IK and we're exploring what changes could be made.

2016 consultations

We sought feedback from Indigenous people to share stories and insights on future directions about IK and IP.

View Finding the Way submissions (2016)

2018 consultations

In 2018, we ran a consultation and asked for people's views to help us:

  • Understand how IK is protected, used and managed
  • Identify policy options relating to IK that we could progress.

You can review the written submissions on the consultation hub page.

2021 consultations

Following the outcomes of our consultations in 2018, we developed the proposals which had support and sought further views on how we could move to implement them.

Webinars

We created a series of webinars to educate people about IK, how it can help their business, and how to protect it. These webinars contain information about IP rights, as well as insights into how businesses can protect and profit from protecting their IP.

Watch the webinars

Publications

Throughout the project we've released reports based on the outcomes of consultations and interviews, as well as commissioned reports about IK and IP issues.

Publications and reports

What we've learnt so far

We need to look at potential changes in the IP system that give effect to four key themes when it comes to IK: 

  • Control — First Nations people want to be able to control who uses IK and how it's used 
  • Protection — First Nations people are seeking measures that can be used to stop unauthorised use of IK and impose sanctions against misappropriation 
  • Recognition — First Nations people want to be recognised as the owners of their IK 
  • Respect — First Nations people want their ownership of IK and the cultural protocols associated with it to be respected.  

We're continuing to develop our IP system to help support the cultural integrity and economic potential of IK knowledge held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. There's more work to do, but we've made a start.

IK Workplan

We've developed our IK Work Plan 2022-23 which sets out the next steps for our work on IK.

We're taking steps to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices and perspectives remain central to the activities in this work plan.

Our IK plan outlines six streams of work which include:

  1. An Indigenous Knowledge Panel at IP Australia
  2. Proposals for system enhancements for trade marks and designs
  3. Proposals for disclosure of source for patents and plant breeder's rights
  4. Guidance for customers about IK and IP and seeking consent
  5. Supporting access to the IP system for IK custodians
  6. Scoping study into stand-alone legislation for IK.

Future consultations

Ensuring that we continue to consult and have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' perspectives at the centre of our IK work is important to us. If you'd like to help shape a better IP system for IK, we welcome your thoughts, feedback and suggestions. Keep an eye out for upcoming consultations to have your say.

Find active consultations

Want to learn more?

Got a question? Email us at IKProject@ipaustralia.gov.au and we’ll get in touch.

To receive updates on our IK work, join our mailing list.

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Indigenous Knowledge

We define Indigenous Knowledge (IK) as the traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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Protection of Indigenous Knowledge

If you're using Indigenous Knowledge (IK) to create something new and unique, IP rights can legally protect aspects of the IK and contribute to your product's value.

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How to engage with Indigenous Knowledge

If you're using Indigenous Knowledge (IK) in your business, seeking informed consent from its Traditional Custodians can help ensure you're treating it respectfully.