February 19, 2024
Protection of Traditional Knowledge in Indonesia

Indonesia is a multicultural country with diverse ethnicities, cultures, and religions, leading to a wealth of cultural creations, knowledge, and traditions. Where such creations, knowledge, and traditions are owned by a certain community and have become part of the identity of that community, they may be protected by Indonesian law as communal intellectual property.

One type of communal intellectual property is traditional knowledge. A well-known example is a form of martial arts known as pencak silat. This martial art was traditionally performed when welcoming guests, usually accompanied by gondang borogong music, and is registered as traditional knowledge from Riau, Indonesia.

New Regulation on Communal Intellectual Property

Traditional knowledge used to be regulated by a number of laws, including three separate ones on copyright, patents, and cultural advancement. However, in December 2022, the Indonesian government issued Government Regulation No. 56 of 2022 on Communal Intellectual Property (“GR 56/2022”), establishing a single set of rules for the definition and protection of traditional knowledge. One of the aims of the regulation is to encourage the registration of communal intellectual property, which was part of the government’s priority program for 2023.

Under GR 56/2022, traditional knowledge is defined as ideas and concepts that contain local values resulting from real experiences of interacting with the environment and that are developed continuously and passed on to the next generation. The regulation recognizes the following categories of traditional knowledge:

  • Traditional methods or processes;
  • Technical proficiency;
  • Skills;
  • Learning;
  • Agricultural knowledge;
  • Technical knowledge;
  • Ecological knowledge;
  • Knowledge related to genetic resources;
  • Knowledge of medicine, traditional medicine, and healing procedures;
  • Economic systems;
  • Social organization systems;
  • Knowledge related to the behavior of nature and the universe; and
  • Other forms of knowledge.

Traditional knowledge is a moral right belonging to the community, requiring any user of the traditional knowledge to acknowledge its origin and use it in a manner that maintains its identity and value to the community.

Recordation of Traditional Knowledge

The government is obliged to inventory, care for, and maintain traditional knowledge. Currently, unlisted traditional knowledge must be recorded with the Ministry of Law and Human Rights (MOLHR) or the relevant minister, nonministerial government institution, or regional government. A recordation application can be submitted online by the community to which the traditional knowledge belongs or by the relevant regional government.

The following documents must be submitted as part of the application:

  • Prescribed application form;
  • Descriptions of the traditional knowledge;
  • Supporting data; and
  • Written statement of support for the protection, preservation, development, and use of traditional knowledge, signed by the regional government.

The descriptions of the traditional knowledge should include:

  • Name of the traditional knowledge;
  • Community of origin;
  • Form of the traditional knowledge (e.g., written or non-written);
  • Region/location of the community of origin;
  • Type of traditional knowledge (e.g., dance, craft, clothing); and
  • Documentary evidence of the traditional knowledge (e.g., video recording)

Once an application for recordation has been submitted, the authorities will conduct a formality review to ensure all required documents have been submitted. They will then form a team to conduct a verification review to determine if the knowledge meets the definition of traditional knowledge set out in GR 56/2022. If it is determined that the knowledge meets the definition, it will be recorded in the Communal Intellectual Property Database developed by the MOLHR’s Directorate General of Intellectual Property. Currently, there are around 10,475 communal intellectual properties recorded in the database, of which over 500 are traditional knowledge.

The recordation of traditional knowledge helps to prevent the exploitation of knowledge in a manner that is not in accordance with the values and meaning given to it by the community of origin. Recordations can also be used to facilitate the resolution of legal disputes. Moreover, the authorities are required to maintain recorded traditional knowledge, including through education and promotion, and ensure that it is used for the benefit of the community of origin.

Use and Safeguarding of Traditional Knowledge

Anyone can use traditional knowledge that is recorded in the Communal Intellectual Property Database, provided they acknowledge its origin and use it in a manner that maintains its identity and value to its community. However, anyone who wishes to use traditional knowledge that is recorded as sacred, secret, or strictly held (e.g., holy books) may only do so with the permission of the community. Moreover, if a person wishes to use traditional knowledge for commercial purposes, they must share a portion or the monetary of nonmonetary benefits with its community.

Indonesia’s mechanisms for protecting traditional knowledge are a step forward in safeguarding the cultural heritage and intellectual property of its diverse communities. With the issuance of Government Regulation No. 56 of 2022 on Communal Intellectual Property, Indonesia has established a comprehensive framework for defining, recording, and regulating traditional knowledge. This regulation not only acknowledges the communal ownership of traditional knowledge but also emphasizes the importance of maintaining its authenticity and value within the respective communities. By requiring recordation and acknowledgment of origin for any use of traditional knowledge, Indonesia aims to prevent its exploitation while promoting its respectful and beneficial utilization. Through these measures, Indonesia is not only preserving its rich cultural heritage but also fostering a framework of respect and reciprocity among its diverse communities and those who seek to engage with their traditional knowledge.

Related Professional
Karenina Aulia
+6221 2971 8011