TK Research Project                  


Home, traditional knowledge web of Taiwan

The importance of traditional knowledge for its creators and for the world community at large, and the need to foster, preserve, and protect such knowledge, has gained increasing attention throughout the years, not only in Taiwan, but also abroad.  This three-year research project has the goal of establishing an integrated traditional knowledge research database for Taiwan.

After a two-year, worldwide survey conducted by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), traditional knowledge, innovations, and practices of indigenous and local communities were found to be not only valuable resources for the development of modern technologies, but also deserving of protection.  In 1981, WIPO-UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) jointly adopted a Model Law on Folklore.  In 1989, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations introduced the concept of ˇ§Farmers Rightsˇ¨ in the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources.  WIPO-UNESCO jointly adopted a Model Law on Folklore.

The 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) created an obligation for Contracting Parties to preserve and maintain traditional knowledge.   It specifically addresses the issue of traditional knowledge in Article 8(j).   It was at this time that the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) and the knowledge of indigenous peoples through intellectual property rights (IPR) received greater attention throughout the world.

The best way to protect traditional knowledge is through a system of intellectual property rights, long used in more-industrialized Western societies, but lesser used in lesser-developed countries.   The extension of the scope of intellectual property right to bio-sciences, and its global implementation in the WTO-TRIPs Agreement, arouse a rift between the more-developed Northern countries (the ˇ§Northˇ¨), and the lesser-developed Southern countries (the ˇ§Southˇ¨).

The South cites ample instances of ˇ§biopiracy,ˇ¨ where the traditional knowledge of Southern countries has been turned into the intellectual property of Northern companies.  While Africa and South America play a major role in voicing their concerns in the protection of traditional knowledge in international fora, the Asia-Pacific region has not played a significant role in these international institutions to date.

Taiwan has two major reasons to be concerned about the protection of traditional knowledge.  First, Taiwan is far from a ˇ§desert island,ˇ¨ but rather a vast and green island, rich in natural resources.  Taiwan has a climate which is conducive to growing not only tropical plants, but also temperate plants.  When the Portuguese first arrived in Taiwan, they called Taiwan, ˇ§Formosa,ˇ¨ or beautiful island.  Taiwanˇ¦s own familiar or colloquial name for itself is ˇ§Baodaoˇ¨ (precious island), which also suggests this vast wealth of natural resources.  

Second, Taiwan, considered the center of the Austronesian peoples and region, has a long heritage of traditional knowledge, not only of Taiwanˇ¦s Indigenous Peoples, but also of the later arriving Fujian peoples, Hakka peoples, and other mainland provincial peoples from China.  It is unfortunate, however, that Taiwanˇ¦s few researchers in the field of traditional knowledge, have scattered findings, making it difficult to access their research. 

It is the hope of this three-year research project to remedy this problem, to establish a traditional knowledge research database for Taiwan, to provide researchers, both here in Taiwan and abroad, with a better-integrated mechanism, and also to allow Taiwan to have a greater voice in international fora concerning the protection of traditional knowledge in the Asia-Pacific region.


The First Year:2003/06~ 2004/05

The Second Year:2004/06~ 2005/05

The Third Year:2005/06~ 2006/05

Principle Investigator:   Dr. Warren H.J. KUO
Professor, National Taiwan University

Collaborating Investigator:  Dr. Jau- Hwa CHEN
Professor, Fu Jen Catholic University

Research Assistant: Shih-Chang CHEN