Indigenous cultural heritage and Fairtrade: voluntary certification standards in the light of WIPO and WTO law and policymaking

Private initiatives for voluntary certification standards appear to be an attractive alternative to top-down approaches in the field of indigenous cultural heritage and development. Over the last 50 years, many different indigenous communities have attempted to use certification trademarks to promote their authentic cultural products. These schemes have had varying success, but arguably none has been as visually unsuccessful as the government-funded Australian system, which collapsed within two years of its inception. On the other side of the scale, the Fairtrade label is considered to be an international triumphant success. This paper assesses why the Australian authenticity label system failed, while the Fairtrade label succeeded, and how these conclusions can be used for existing and future endeavours. It further discusses whether such a voluntary certification system would be compliant with World Intellectual Property Organisation and World Trade Organisation law and policy. It concludes by looking towards the future and the possibility of the Fairtrade label being extended to meet the interests of indigenous communities.

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