Collective intellectual property of Indigenous peoples and local communities: Exploring power asymmetries in the rooibos geographical indication and industry-wide benefit-sharing agreement

Elsevier, Research Policy, Volume 52, November 2023
Meyer C., Naicker K.
Collective intellectual property of traditional knowledge by Indigenous peoples and local communities is an important source of innovation and product development. In this article, we investigate collective intellectual property systems on the traditional knowledge of Aspalathus linearis, also known as rooibos—an endemic plant from South Africa which is the basis of an important herbal tea industry. We analyze how issues of misappropriation on rooibos have been addressed through the establishment of two industry-wide collective intellectual property systems: a geographical indication and a benefit-sharing agreement. In a context characterized by high socio-economic inequalities, these systems are built on institutions for collective action that display important power asymmetries between social groups. We contribute to ongoing debates about intellectual property impacts by investigating how collective intellectual property systems enable the sharing of benefits arising from the use of biodiversity and related knowledge, but can be sources of exclusion that reflect asymmetric power dynamics.