Posted by William Nunnelley on 2002-05-23

Professor Paul Kuruk of Samford University's Cumberland School of Law has received a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award for study this fall at the Max-Planck Institute for Foreign and International Patent, Copyright and Competition Law in Munich, Germany.

Kuruk is an expert in domestic and international law relating to intellectual property. He is extremely well known in the field of intellectual property as it relates to traditional knowledge.

As a Fulbright Scholar, he will conduct a book-length research project and present lectures on problems and issues in current commercial uses of traditional knowledge and its protection. Traditional knowledge refers generally to the literary, artistic or scientific discoveries of community groups including knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

Traditional knowledge is used in such areas as agriculture, scientific research, medicine and cultural expressions of folklore including music, dance, handicrafts, designs, stories and artwork.

"The legal protection of traditional knowledge has emerged as an issue of global importance propelled in large part by the increased interest of research scientists, pharmaceutical companies and other biotechnology companies in the genetic resources of developing nations," said Kuruk.

There is a concern that traditional communities "are not adequately compensated for uses of their knowledge and that any benefits they receive pale in comparison to the huge profits of western exploiters," he said.

Intellectual property law protects works of human creativity through patents, copyrights and trademarks, noted Kuruk, but such methods are not well-suited for protecting cultural works.

"Intellectual property law requires protected works to have been written or recorded, and protection is generally granted for limited duration, as 20 years in the case of patents," he said. "Traditional knowledge cannot meet these criteria because it is often passed orally through generations of people over the centuries and is therefore of unlimited duration." Kuruk is currently participating in United Nations' efforts to develop policies in these areas.

Kuruk's research in Germany will offer recommendations for the adoption of a new framework of protection for traditional knowledge not based exclusively on intellectual property criteria.

Following his study in Munich, Kuruk will serve as Visiting Professor of Law at Oxford University in England during the spring of 2003. He will present a series of seminars at the Faculty of Law and address the graduate students reading group.

Kuruk is author of an article on customary law and folklore which will be published in the July issue of Copyright Bulletin, an international journal dealing with intellectual property matters. The article has been translated into the French, Spanish, Russian and Chinese languages.

He is a member of the executive committee of the Association of American Law Schools section on Africa and a member of the American Bar Association section on intellectual property. He also serves as the Secretary of the International Law Section of the Alabama State Bar Association.

A graduate of the University of Ghana, Kuruk holds M.A. and LL.M. degrees from Temple University and a Doctor of Juridical Science degree from Stanford Law School.


Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.