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QUT Indigenous intellectual property forum tomorrow looks at legal moves to protect IP

22nd March 2016

Australia has a long history of conflict over Indigenous intellectual property in Australia, detailed in a new research handbook launched at a QUT-hosted forum tomorrow, Wednesday, March 23.

QUT Intellectual Property and Innovation Professor Matthew Rimmer said there was a long history of misappropriation of Indigenous intellectual property in Australia and elsewhere around the world.

"David Unaipon, whose image appears on the $50 note, was an Indigenous storyteller, inventor, and activist who experienced early battles over misappropriation of his creations," Professor Rimmer said.

“A number of landmark Australian cases since then have sought to protect Indigenous art and culture.

“Here, battles over Indigenous intellectual property have often raised larger questions about native title, sovereignty, and reconciliation.

“In the field of copyright law, there has been a push to recognise communal ownership of Indigenous cultural creations while in patent law, debate over informed consent and benefit sharing in respect of genetic resources is ongoing.

“We have also seen efforts to properly compensate Indigenous artists through the development of a resale royalty scheme.

“Questions about confidentiality, privacy, and defamation law raised in respect of Indigenous legal issues are also looked at in the book.”

Professor Rimmer said the book covered the evolution of Indigenous IP law in the Bank-notes case, the Reserve Bank case, the Carpets case, the ‘At the Waterhole’ case, the dispute over the Aboriginal flag, and various actions by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“Contributors also outline the work of Colin Golvan and Martin Hardie who played key roles in a number of landmark cases. Justice Von Doussa and now Chief Justice French of the High Court of Australia helped develop the jurisprudence in this field.”

Professor Rimmer said that outside Australia disputes over offensive trademarks had arisen.

“At the urging of President Barack Obama, the US Patent and Trademark Office sought to cancel the trademark of the Washington Redskins football team," he said.

“Innovative policy initiatives around the world to address Indigenous IP rights include the Wai 262 decision in New Zealand which provided recognition of Indigenous IP under the Treaty of Waitangi.

“South Africa has passed a series of amendments to better protect Indigenous intellectual property.”

World-renowned Indigenous intellectual property expert Terri Janke will give the keynote speech at the forum and is contributing author in the handbook, Indigenous Intellectual Property, edited by  Professor Rimmer.

For details on the forum click here.

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT Media, 07 3138 2999 or

After hours: Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901


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