Indigenous interests in intellectual property law can affect approximately 370 million indigenous people located in nearly 100 countries. Yet a legal framework for the protection of indigenous knowledge, culture, folklore, science, and music remains elusive.  At the Indian Law Conference April 6-7, explore how an enhanced intellectual property law regime can protect the inclusion of indigenous peoples’ cultural knowledge, inventions, and stories. Don’t miss the 42nd Annual Indian Law Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sign up today at www.fedbar.org/indianlaw17.

Indigenous peoples’ heritage includes objects, scientific discoveries, moveable and immoveable cultural property, photographs, videos, songs, and dances. The nature of indigenous heritage material is such that it is transmitted from generation to generation. Globalization has provided new avenues and incentives for the commercial use of indigenous peoples’ artistic expressions, which haven’t always been protected and compensated for appropriately. From eco-tourism to souvenir artifacts, culture is being transformed and sometimes misappropriated into merchandise. The need for protection of indigenous works increases each day.

Speakers at the April 6-7 Indian Law Conference will discuss the rapidly growing domain of indigenous intellectual property law, including originality, ownership, and the advantages of protecting culture. The session titled “Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property Rights” will feature Wade T. Blackmon (Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP), Melody McCoy (Native American Rights Fund), and Paul Spruhan (Navajo Nation Department of Justice). Register now to take advantage of reduced rates: www.fedbar.org/indianlaw17.

Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP) refers to the rights to protect traditional knowledge and sacred cultural material. It is the right to ensure that traditional laws and customs are respected; the right to be paid for use of ICIP; the right to proper attribution of the community connected with the ICIP; and the right to prevent offensive and misrepresentative uses of ICIP in all media. Learn about the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain, control, protect, and develop their intellectual property over cultural heritage, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions at the upcoming Indian Law Conference.

The case of Bikram Choudhury, the founder of a yoga technique known as Bikram Yoga, is illustrative of indigenous peoples’ intricate experience with intellectual property law. Choudhury has aggressively enforced claims of copyright protection for his sequence of asanas. Indigenous peoples and the yoga community objected to the idea that Choudhury could have exclusive control over a series of postures derived from Indian traditional knowledge and practices. In 2002, Choudhury filed for copyright for the yoga sequence itself. However, in 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California affirmed a previous ruling by a federal district court that Bikram Choudhury’s sequence of 26 yoga poses and two breathing exercises is not entitled to copyright protection.  Many argued that the copyright in yoga asana sequences was a misappropriation of traditional knowledge.

The relationship between indigenous knowledge and intellectual property law is a complex one. Indigenous peoples’ concerns about restricting or controlling the way other people have access to their cultural histories, religious and spiritual practices, and expressions necessarily involves legal questions about copyright, patents, trademarks, and artwork.  Join the Federal Bar Association April 6-7 at the Talking Stick Resort for a groundbreaking examination of indigenous peoples and intellectual property rights. Sign up today! www.fedbar.org/indianlaw17.


Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.