Date of Award


Document Type


First Advisor

Aldo Chircop

Second Advisor

Chidi Oguamanam


The relationship between international regimes regulating intellectual property, traditional knowledge and biodiversity has received much attention in recent times. Of the many complex and controversial issues in contemporary international legal discourse on this matter, the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) stands out as a significant challenge. Choices abound in the search for modalities to regulate rights to use and control TK systems and their underlying biodiversity. In recent times, the protection of geographical indications (GIs) has emerged as an option for protecting TK. Despite the considerable enthusiasm over it, there is appreciable research dearth on how far and in what context GIs can be used as a protection model. Indeed, not only is the concept of GIs itself widely misunderstood. As well, analyses as to their applicability for protecting TK often reflect underlying cultural differences in the nature, scope and the jurisprudence regarding GIs across jurisdictions. This thesis examines the relationship between GIs and TK, focusing on the responsiveness of GIs to the needs and desires of indigenous peoples and local communities (ILCs). The thesis posits that the search for a model to protect TK should involve identifying different modalities, including those based on intellectual property, to fit to the nature and uses of TK in particular contexts. The analysis conceptualizes GIs as a form of IP that are structurally and functionally suitable to protect aspects of TK in traditional knowledge-based agricultural products (TKBAPs). Substantively, the thesis draws attention to the conceptual underpinnings of GIs as encompassing cultural and economic objectives in the protection of TK. As such, it is argued that stronger protection of GIs should be achieved by integrating the negotiations and discussion concerning GIs and TK at the international level. Further, the case is made for the determination of immediate challenges and long-term opportunities in choosing a legal means for protecting GIs at the national level. In this connection, the thesis suggests that the potential of GIs to meet national and local imperatives to protect TK be assessed, inter alia, based on their instrumentality for economic, biodiversity, cultural and food security objectives in protecting TKBAPs.