Traditional knowledge and patent protection: Conflicting views on international patent standards
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As diseases continue to spread around the globe, pharmaceutical and biotech companies continue to search for new and better drugs to treat them. Most of these companies have realised that useful compounds for these purposes may be found in the natural resources that indigenous and local communities use. And yet, even though the importance of these biological resources to global health and economic livelihood is well recognised, the legal ownership and control of this traditional knowledge is still very controversial. This article undertakes a comparative analysis of American and European, as well as international legal regulations on patent law and traditional knowledge. Key questions include: What is traditional knowledge? How have the national patent laws of these countries treated the protection of plant variety and plant genetic resources? What are the existing international standards for patents, and what implications do they have for protecting traditional knowledge? And finally, what protection systems are emerging for the future?