TK-related IP protection may be applied to three general forms of subject matter:
(a) Protection extended to the content, substance or idea of knowledge and culture (such as traditional know-how about the medicinal use of a plant, or traditional ecological management practices) – corresponding roughly to the subject matter of patents, utility models and know-how or trade secrets;
(b) Protection extended to the form, expression or representation of traditional cultures (such as a traditional song, performance, oral narrative or graphic design) – corresponding roughly to the subject matter of copyright and performer’s rights and rights in industrial and textile designs; and
(c) Protection extended to the reputation and distinctive character of signs, symbols, indications, patterns and styles associated with traditional cultures, including the suppression of misleading, deceptive and offensive use of this subject matter – corresponding roughly to the subject matter of trademarks and geographical indications, as well as specific protection for material such as the names of IGOs, hallmarks and national symbols.
The nature of the protection intended will clearly influence the way the subject matter is defined intended for protection, and thus the definition of TK for the purposes of its IP protection should take account of the way it is defined. This document concentrates on the form of protection of TK stricto sensu, which has been identified as:
"the content or substance of traditional know-how, skills, practices and learning, while recognizing that this content or substance may be considered integral with traditional ways of expressing the knowledge and the traditional context in which the knowledge is developed, preserved and transmitted. This reflects the view that TK must refer to ‘knowledge’ in a general sense, but knowledge with a specifically traditional character. Protection would apply to the knowledge as such, and restrain the unauthorized use of the knowledge; this could include unauthorized disclosure of secret or sacred TK".