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This Note explores the discriminatory effect of U.S. patent law and policy on indigenous communities in developing countries. For years, Western researchers have relied upon local people to point them to useful regional plants and animals so that they could then isolate, develop and patent the chemical compounds found in the organisms. Yet, the U.S. patent system does not recognize or value the traditional knowledge of indigenous groups regarding their regional biodiversity. Rather, the researchers who isolate the compounds can obtain a patent with no recognition for the indigenous knowledge upon which they relied. Recently, the World Trade Organization has succeeded at globalizing Western intellectual property systems through international treaties. These efforts have met with significant resistance in several developing countries. The controversy over the ayahuasca patent is one example of developing countries' opposition to Western-style intellectual property rights. By implementing the suggestions described in this Note, the United States could ensure that indigenous knowledge would be recognized and thus could avoid future controversies like the one surrounding the ayahuasca patent.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
7 Sep 2022
3.05 MB



  • Subject
    • Intellectual Property Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Third World Law Journal

  • Volume
    • 21

  • Issue
    • 1

  • Pagination
    • 69

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022