The Role of Traditional Leadership and Customary Law under Sui Generis Systems of Intellectual Property Rights in Traditional Knowledge


This paper aims at analysing the role of customary law under sui generis systems of intellectual property rights in traditional knowledge. This is done through a desk top analysis of the role of traditional leadership and customary law under the Swakopmund Protocol on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Expressions of Folklore within the Framework of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) and its mutual supportiveness with human rights as provided by the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The paper finds out that the Zimbabwe Constitution recognises the institution, status and role of traditional leaders under customary law and an understanding of traditional knowledge’s holistic nature affirms the effectiveness of traditional leadership and customary law as the primary regulatory mechanism of this framework. However, it should be noted that whilst Zimbabwe has deposited an instrument of ratification of this Protocol, it is yet to enact a statute to that effect as per constitutional provisions.



Gabriel Muzah is an intellectual property lecturer at Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance in Mutare, Zimbabwe. He is also a Fellow of the International Centre for Human Development (IC4HD) at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS), where he contributes on matters of traditional knowledge, intellectual property and human development for evidence-based policy advisory services. His research interests include: traditional knowledge, patent analytics, financial derivatives and technologyand innovation.

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