cultural rights & property

A community’s cultural and intellectual assets and resources are inherited, developed, and passed on from generation to generation.  They often form a fundamental part of that community’s cultural or spiritual identity.  They include plant and human genetic resources; traditional knowledge including specialized agricultural, medicinal, ecological, or other skills, practices, or know-how; traditional cultural expressions and practices, such as art, music, dance, designs, names, signs and symbols, performances, ceremonies, and architectural forms; historical arts and heritage property; and many other domains.  International and national laws increasingly recognize the inherent intellectual property rights—in contract, patent, trademark, copyright, origin designation, and newer forms of IP rights—that communities have with respect to all these assets and resources.

Forum Nobis works with indigenous communities—and many other communities—to understand the extent to which this body of law is available to protect their rights and property and to develop strategies and approaches for articulating and advocating for those rights in a variety of forums.  Through its counsel, consulting, and communications practices, Forum Nobis works with clients (and/or their existing legal teams, allies, organizers, or representatives) on traditional knowledge and intellectual property issues and projects such as:

  • engaging with existing international authorities including the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity, national-level IP authorities such as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and existing traditional knowledge databases and documentation processes;
  • preparing database submissions, cultural property declarations, and other documents consistent with international standards;
  • resisting exploitation and expropriation of traditional knowledge and IP;
  • developing and implementing appropriate policy outreach and communications strategies;
  • developing licensing and other contract-based strategies to IP protection;
  • investigation and advocacy on issues related to geographical designations and origin appellations on products;
  • investigation and advocacy on issues related to improperly obtained cultural and heritage property.