Intangible cultural heritage and intellectual property the bulgarian experience

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Vladia Borissova

“Intellectual Property” dept.





  1. Origin and legislation of intangible cultural heritage

The cultural heritage/CH of Bulgaria is a combination of customs, traditions and traditional practices of mainly the larger ethnographic groups in Bulgaria which are characterized by common features in certain elements of folklore, most of all in customs. The differences manifest mostly in folk dress, in practicing some of the folk traditions and in the rituals they are accompanied by. Traditional music is specifically present in each ethnographic group. There are also minority ethnic groups in Bulgaria, which are characterized by their own customs and traditions, passed along mostly through their common law, which in turn is different for each group. Ethnic folklore is not a part of the national intangible cultural heritage/ICH which is formed of the traditional practices of the ethnographic groups in the country.

Regarding the genetic resources/GR, there isn’t a state policy for their preservation and protection, thus we don’t have traditional knowledge/TK in breading and developing a new plant varieties. Despite the lack of traditions in this particular filed the country is ratified the Convention for biological diversity/CBD which regulations are part of the national legislation. Related to GR is the Bulgarian traditional medicine especially in preparing different combinations of healing herbs which are essential part of our nature and healing a human skeleton by applying traditional skills and knowledge of a human body. Parts of our traditional medicine are some spiritual rituals mainly healing the soul by purification such as cast a spell by a sorcerer. Those alive national traditions are not legally protected, but they aren’t easy to be learned which actually constitute their informal protection as know-how. Bridging the traditions with the modern word, Bulgaria has a good experience at the pharmaceutical industry in producing medicines by using healing plants and herbs.

In this respect, Bulgaria has more experience in preservation and protection of traditional cultural expressions and folklore which we define as ICH, than in GR.


This presentation makes an overview related with: the state of legislation in the intangible cultural heritage field; the institutions dealing with its preservation and protection; and the relationship ICH-intellectual property/IP.


The national system for preservation and protection of Bulgarian cultural heritage is characterized by a relatively effective national cultural policy, developed and applied in the condition of legally unified rules. In an international aspect Bulgaria has ratified important conventions regarding cultural heritage and intellectual property, as it is shown on the slide:

  • European cultural convention

  • Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions;

  • Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Bulgaria, except with preservation of intangible cultural heritage (ICH) which is a priority area for UNESCO, participates actively in the work of WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore on the development of an international document for the protection of traditional cultural expressions and folklore.

At a national level, the preservation and protection of ICH are settled in:

  • The Constitution of the Republic of Bulgaria;

  • Law on protection and development of culture;

  • Law on copyright and related rights;

  • Law on handicrafts;

  • Law on the state archive fund;

  • Law on the national endowment fund 13 centuries Bulgaria;

  • Law on patrons;

  • Law on cultural heritage

The Cultural heritage Law/CHL is the first act, which fully deals with the Bulgarian cultural heritage which was adopted in 2009. Its major goal is the preservation and protection of cultural heritage, but regarding the intangible heritage the fully settled matter is its preservation, while its protection is only discussed by naming the competent institution. There isn’t a regime for access, utilization and protection regarding the IP. Questions, directly related to the economic nature of ICH and the possibility this economic capacity to be managed in public interest, but only if the relation ICH and IP would be legally defined.

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