Indigenous Knowledge

Indigenous Knowledge, also called Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions, is an important asset belonging to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, their communities, organisations and businesses. Indigenous Knowledge can reflect and identify a community’s history, cultural and social identity, and its values.

Whether you are an Indigenous business, or a non-Indigenous business looking at engaging with Indigenous Knowledge, you need to be aware it also has cultural and economic value. 

We administer IP rights and are working across government to strengthen the protections available to ensure Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expression are acknowledged and used appropriately. 

Applying for and registering your IP rights provides protection for your ideas in the marketplace, allowing you as the owner or inventor to benefit commercially. 

Your IP may include:  

  • a brand  
  • a logo
  • an invention 
  • a design 
  • artistic work 
  • a new plant variety.  

However, existing IP laws struggle to accommodate the unique characteristics of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions, which can include oral traditions, musical heritage, and artistic methods that are traditionally inherited across generations.  

The diverse and interrelated nature of Indigenous Knowledge poses challenges for its classification within the existing structures of IP law, here in Australia and internationally.  

Indigenous businesses

Engaging authentically with Indigenous Knowledge adds a special and distinct element to your product or services, and can set you apart from other traders. Acknowledging and respectfully using these traditional elements in your product or service can attract customers who appreciate cultural heritage, differentiating your product to build your market, and develop loyal customer relationships and repeat business. 

Non-Indigenous businesses

We're committed to providing effective systems that help ensure IP applications involving Indigenous Knowledge can demonstrate that the Traditional Custodians have been an integral part of the business process and that the use of Indigenous Knowledge is obtained with free, prior and informed consent.

Partnering with Indigenous communities and sharing knowledge builds mutually beneficial relationships and opens possibilities for joint ventures that can lead to innovative products or services.

Our Indigenous Knowledge commitment

We're committed to engaging respectfully and authentically with First Nations peoples to support the appropriate considerations of Indigenous Knowledge in IP rights applications, and to improve the Australian IP system’s accessibility.