Traditional knowledge on the medicinal uses of plants, biopiracy and national patent measures in Africa: Exploratory reflections and comparative experiences

Authors Emeka Polycarp Amechi

ISSN: 2521-2605
Affiliations: University of Port Harcourt
Source: Journal of Comparative Law in Africa, Volume 5 Issue 1, p. 73 – 109


As presently structured, the criteria for the grant of patents are principally based on a prescriptive Western or conventional scientific narrative that does not accommodate other descriptions of knowledge, thereby leading to the exclusion of traditional knowledge on the medicinal uses of plants (TKMUPs) and other non-conventional scientific narratives. The failure of the mainstream global patent regime to recognise TKMUPs and other biodiversity TK reinforces its distrust by developing countries and advocates of indigenous communities, while simultaneously raising passion and pressure for the review of its conceptual framework. In view of the reluctance to reform the global patent system, some developing countries have adopted a radically different approach to intellectual property, particularly as it involves the protection of their TKMUPs from misappropriation. This article explores the use of national patent measures for the protection of TKMUP in Africa as a means to remedy the unsatisfactory and exclusivist tendencies of the global patent system. Using comparative experiences in India and China, it finds that most African countries are yet to adopt the relevant measures which would ensure that the patent system functions effectively in protecting their TKMUP. It therefore stresses the need for African countries to adopt appropriate national measures that would improve the operational mechanisms of their patent systems for the effective protection of medicinal knowledge.