February 28, 2024

■ Jane B. Cadalig 

How can traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions be protected under laws on intellectual property?

Experts said measures are in place to protect the intellectual property of indigenous peoples/cultural communities, but the challenge lies in how equipped the members are to advance the protection of their knowledge, cultural expressions, or their genetic resources.

Lawyer Gio Franco Gomez, consultant of the Creative Industries Development Program Management Unit of the Department of Trade and Industry, said it is challenging to protect the intellectual property of indigenous communities because of their collective nature.

Marlo Q. Carag, area manager for Intellectual Property Office (IPO)-Luzon, shared this, saying the protection of the IPs’ intellectual property should be done by the groups themselves or their respective local government units.

“For community-owned knowledge, it should be the members that should manage the recognition and protection systems of this knowledge. We have laws on intellectual property rights, but it should be the groups that are directly affected that should lead in the protection of their rights.”

Carag said one way of protecting intellectual property, especially if this is a product that is meant for commercialization, is through branding or trademark.

For instance, if a community is the source of handicrafts and the people want the product to be identified with their place as the origin, the IPO and the Department of Trade and Industry can help facilitate the protection of their craft through branding or the registration of their trademark.

“If the community is organized and managed professionally, their handicraft industry can be sustained, but there should be someone from the community that should lead,” he said.

In terms of performances that are recorded, Carag said if the Copyright Law is strictly applied, the copyright belongs to the person who recorded the performance, and the actors and the producer should benefit from the residuals every time the performance is played.

He said community-owned knowledge or crafts cannot be issued with a copyright because a copyright can only be given to an individual creator.

Carag said the Cordillera, given its diverse cultural background, should be the model for the protection of traditional knowledge and cultural expressions.

DTI-Cordillera Director Juliet Lucas said the DTI has been advocating for barangays or LGUs to document the cultural properties they claim to own so they can have these protected with collective trademarks.