Empowering Indigenous Knowledge and advancing IP systems

We're looking at ways the IP system can better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to protect and benefit from their Indigenous Knowledge.

We've commissioned research and held a series of roundtable sessions from 2016-2021. Hearing directly from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other stakeholders has been extremely helpful in improving our understanding of the issues associated with the protection and management of Indigenous Knowledge. 

First Nations people have told us about the importance of consultation and consent when people seek to use Indigenous Knowledge for their business.  

We have listened and are working to improve our IP system following the 4 key themes First Nations peoples’ have asked for when it comes to Indigenous Knowledge: 

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

Indigenous Advisory Panel

We are working towards establishing an Indigenous Advisory Panel made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members who can contribute expertise and advice on issues relating to Indigenous Knowledge.

The functions of this panel may include providing input on policy development as well as consideration of IP applications that appear to use Indigenous Knowledge.

Changes to IP rights we administer

Following from consultations in 2021 we are looking at possible changes to the Acts we administer to better support the cultural integrity and economic potential of Indigenous Knowledge held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

This includes proposals for system enhancements for trade marks and designs for disclosure of source for patents and plant breeder's rights. There's more work to do, but we've made a start.

Stand-alone legislation 

In the National Cultural Policy – ‘Revive: a place for every story, a story for every place’ the Australian Government committed to work with First Nations people to establish stand-alone legislation to recognise and protect First Nations' Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions. 

The Office for the Arts, within the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, has responsibility for progressing the Legislation to Parliament.

We are working with the NIAA, the Office for the Arts and the Attorney General’s Department to establish a partnership between the Government and First Nations people to help develop the legislation in line with Closing the Gap Priority Reforms 1 and 3.

To ensure the legislation is developed in a timely manner, the first stage will address the harm caused by fake art, merchandise and souvenirs, with later stages focusing on broader Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) rights.

Discover more on Stand-alone legislation 

WIPO Diplomatic Conference on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge 

In May 2024, we are participating in the World Intellectual Property Organization Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) Diplomatic Conference on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge.

This is the final stage of negotiations for a draft text relating to the use of Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge in the patents system.

A successful outcome at the Diplomatic Conference would create a new international standard about what information patent applicants must disclose when seeking protection for new inventions that use Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge.

For more information on the Diplomatic Conference, including frequently asked questions and the basic proposal text, check out our consultations page.

If you are interested in learning more about the international discussions at WIPO on Intellectual Property and the protection of Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions and Genetic resources, you can find more information from the World Intellectual Property Organization.

Learn more at WIPO