Monday, 9 January 2012

Protecting traditional knowledge and culture: Colombia gives an example

The protection of traditional knowledge is seen this time by way of Intellectual Property law: collective marks and Geographical Indication (GI). The news that I bring you today relates to the legal recognition (granted by the Colombia Superintendence of Industry and Commerce (SIC)) and thus protection of some of the most recognised products in Colombia which have aboriginal origin. The legal certification granted to the products would give the makers the possibility of defending their product against piracy and initiate legal proceedings that arise when another trader makes a copy or takes advantage of the reputation of their products on the market.

Both legal figures relate to the follow:
Collective marks as any other trade mark distinguish the goods/services from those of others. It signifies membership of a particular group; it does not have anything to do with quality but just identifying a particular association and thus designating who can use the mark.

Geographical indications are policies designated to highlight a link between the natural geographical advantages or the reputation associated with a place and the products produced in that place. There is however no definition of GI in the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property but the TRIPs Agreement defined them as “indications which identify a good as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods is essentially attributable to its geographic origin” (art 22(1)). Note that according to TRIPs this measure applies to ‘all’ products. There is also the Lisbon Agreement and the Madrid Agreement -- the latter protects GIs at international level.

It is good to bear in mind that all these treaties exhibit different approaches but with a key point – to protect a product from passing off, in other words where one trader sells goods/services in the appearance of another trader’s goods/services. Another important point here is perhaps that many countries do not recognise handicraft as GIs but just foodstuff as the EU for example.

On December, Colombia saw the recognition of seven artisan products as a GIs (in the form of Denominations of Origin) and added to this, six associations were granted a collective mark also for artisan products. What caught my attention from these products was that all of them were born before the colonization and were made by different ethnic groups.
The base of the Colombian handicrafts is from natural products offered by this land and is at hand. For instance: clay, bamboo, leather, fibers, sisal, wool, wood, calabash, and precious metals. They do reflect the cultural expressions. Hammocks, pieces of gold, silver filigree, basketry, tapestry, ceramics, accessories in coconut or seeds, embroidery, sculptures, wooden objects and hand-woven items are an excellent showcase of Colombia to the world.

The products that received GI protection were:
  • Mochilas Wayuú’: bags made by the Wayuu, a group of indigenous people who live in La Guajira Peninsula in northern Colombia. Each ‘mochila’ is hand-made by one woman and each woman has her own signature.
  • ‘Tejeduría Zenú’ (weaving)
  • ‘Hamacas de San Jacinto’ (hammock)
  • ‘Sombrero Aguadeño’ (hat)
  • 'Sombrero de Sandoná (hat)
  • ‘Cerámica de Carmen de Víboral’ (ceramics)
  • Mopa Mopa Barniz-Pasto’: pasto varnish is a decorative technique developed by indigenous communities of Nariño in southern Colombia. Mopa-mopa is extracted from a plant that grows in the department of Putumayo in the Colombian jungle. The plant produces a gelatinous pulp, and through a traditional process of heating (previously there was the chewing and then the throwing in boiling water) is converted into a thin resin sheets- the artisan, with the help of his hands and even teeth ends to stretch; this then is tinted with vegetable dyes which will cover the surfaces of wooden objects.

Those that were registered as a collective marks were:
  • Sombrero Vueltiao’: hat resulting from weaving iraca palm fibres called ‘caña flecha’ that are native to Aguadas and has its origins in the Zenú Indian culture. This natural fibre is transformed into black and white fibers that are braided by a traditional Zenú technique—originally, it was only white, as the artisans had not discovered a painting technique until later on.
  • ‘ Filigrana de Mompox’ (weaving gold jewellery)
  • 'Tejeduría de Usiacurí’ (weaving)
  • ‘Artesanías del Valle de Sibundoy’: handcrafted products in beads, wool, yarn, fiber, seeds, wood carving located in the Department of Putumayo (Colombia), home of lnga and Camentsá Indians.
  • Mochilas Arhuacas’: bags made from wool of sheep by the Arhuaco Indians.
  • Werreregue de los Wounaan’:Wounaan Indians who produce basket and trays made of werreregue palm. Originally, the Waunana women manufactured werregue vases quite solid and compact so it could be used to carry water.
Source Bulletin Latinpymes.

No comments :