Texas Wesleyan Law Review


Michael Newcity

Document Type



The fundamental question is how much interest exists in Russia to extend legal protection to traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. There has been virtually no public, scholarly discussion of this issue in Russia. As far as my research reveals, this article is the first scholarly analysis in Russian or English of the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions under Russian law. At a technical governmental level, there is some interest in these issues. Specialists from the government of the Russian Federation participate in the work of WIPO's Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, for example. But the interest of specialists in a government ministry does not necessarily translate into the political momentum necessary to make a major change in existing intellectual property legislation, and the political influence of Russia's numerically- small peoples is slight and in recent years has been made even slighter by the elimination of several autonomous okrugs in which the indigenous population represented a significant percentage of the total population. Changes in intellectual property law in the Soviet Union and post- Soviet Russia have usually occurred in response to international pressure. The Soviet Union acceded to the Universal Copyright Convention in 1973 and modified its copyright law, granting copyright protection to foreign authors for the first time, as part of trade negotiations with the United States. The adoption of new intellectual property statutes in 1992 and 1993 and the accession of Russia to the Berne Convention in 1995 are largely explained as a response to demands by the U.S. and other foreign governments and technology owners. Based on this track record, international pressure may represent the best strategy for encouraging the Russian government to expand the protection of the traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions of Russia's numerically-small peoples. But in the absence of such international pressure, the prospects for such a major revision of Russian intellectual property law seem remote.



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