Guide to Intellectual Property for Maori Organisations and Communities

Thursday 24th April 2008

The New Zealand government has released a free Guide to Intellectual Property for Maori Organisations and Communities.

The guide is part of the first phase of a three-step work programme to examine more closely the relationship between IP rights and systems and traditional knowledge.

One of the aims of the first stage is to “build the capacity of the Maori so they understand the opportunities and risks that the IP system provides to traditional Maori knowledge and its holders”. The second stage is designed to identify any problems associated with the relationship between intellectual property and traditional knowledge in New Zealand. The third stage involves the development of possible solutions to address some of the issues that will have become apparent during the first and second stages.

The guide is separate from what is colloquially referred to as ‘WAI 262’. WAI 262 refers to a claim brought against the New Zealand Crown in 1991 by the members of six tribes under the Treaty of Waitangi. The treaty was signed in 1840 by the Maori and the Crown; the Maori gave the Crown rights to govern and develop British settlements, while the Crown guaranteed the Maori full protection of their interests and status, as well as full citizenship rights. Generally speaking, the claims assert exclusive rights to flora and fauna, cultural knowledge and property. The issues raised in WAI 262 are similar to those raised in other jurisdictions by indigenous groups.

Some 16 years after the claim was first filed, the WAI 262 hearings have been concluded and the Waitangi Tribunal is working on its recommendations to the government.

The guide does not deal specifically with any of the issues raised in WAI 262, but, according to the government, is “mindful of the relationship between [WAI 262] and IP policy and legislation”.

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