Brooklyn Journal of International Law

First Page



There is a current movement by indigenous weavers in Guatemala to protect their textile designs due to the harm caused by the absence of the weavers’ intellectual property ownership over the designs and patterns. The exploitation and appropriation of their designs by domestic and international companies has hurt weavers’ livelihoods and has led to culturally inappropriate and insensitive uses of religious and traditional patterns. Conventional intellectual property law (copyright, trademark, and patent law) fails to protect indigenous peoples’ intellectual property rights. A key weakness within conventional intellectual property law is the emphasis and focus on individuality of the creation process. Indigenous communities’ intellectual property is part of a collective and communal creation and ownership because it is created over generations and ingrained in each community’s culture. Another area of intellectual property law that could offer better protections for the indigenous textile designs is geographical indications. A subset of intellectual property, geographical indications have been used all over the world to protect regional goods. This Note argues that the indigenous weavers in Guatemala should register their textile products as geographical indications to better protect the intellectual property rights of their textile designs. A geographical indication does not belong to an individual, but to producers within the geographical area, therefore, it would create a collective or a cultural group intellectual property right. The geographical indication would go further than the ability of conventional intellectual property rights and empower the indigenous Guatemalan communities to protect their collective and communal creations that have been created over generations. It would give the weavers and their communities control over their heritage and culture.