The interplay between traditional knowledge and geographical indications: a case study of Liberia

Karngar, F.
February 2011


Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Geographical Indications (GIs) are viewed by some scholars as separate concepts.

For TK, some see it as lacking the basic characteristics to benefit from contemporary intellectual property protection. For those TK is part of public domain. Some other scholars believe that the current IP regime is grossly inadequate and are proposing a more robust protection at both domestic and international level.

On the other hand, GIs are a “young” but consolidated category of IPRs. The TRIPS Agreement (Article 21 (1)) defines GIs as signs identifying “a good as originating in the territory of a [m]ember, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.” Views differ as to the legal system to be used at the national level to grant the level of protection required by the TRIPS Agreement as some national legislation provides for sui generis systems and others for trademark systems (including certification and collective marks).

Some scholars have recognized an implicit relationship between the concepts of TK and GIs.

Following the views of those that believe that TK and GIs are closely associated, this paper attempts to explore the links between the two concepts in their broadest forms. In the end, the paper demonstrates the inseparable nature of this relationship through two case studies on Liberia.