Key Term: Intellectual Property
Intellectual Property means different things to different people, and in varying cultural contexts. Western laws refer to intellectual property as “creations of the mind.” These provide legal commercial protections like copyright, patent, trademarks, and trade secrets. But these laws only protect tangible expressions of the mind’s creations. For example, a story is an intangible creation of the mind; a tangible expression of that story is a book, which can be protected by copyright. Another intangible creation is an idea; a tangible product of that idea may be an invention, which can be protected by patent or trademark. The kinds of creations that can be protected by intellectual property laws include music, literary works, art, inventions, as well as words, phrases, symbols and designs.
Outside of the western legal system, intellectual property may have other meanings. For Indigenous peoples it may apply to a wide range of tangible and intangible aspects of cultural heritage. These are often referred to as “traditional knowledge” and “traditional cultural expressions." Traditional knowledge is passed down from generation to generation, connecting ancestors and descendants through constantly evolving teachings. Such knowledge, for example, can be about historical landscapes, the environment and the animals and plants within it, medical practices, spirituality, or history.