The paper considers the role of Scottish culture and history, real or imagined, in the commercialisation of iconic Scottish creations such as tartan and Scotch whisky. It notes that many of the forms of legal protection available to the producers of such products were developed to encourage individual innovation, not designed to address communal interests in the preservation of national or group identities and heritage. This may be one reason why, as is illustrated by the case of tartan, these rights offer patchy and incomplete protection to ‘authentic’ Scottish products. Over time, however, the UK has developed various forms of collective protection for cultural products such as Harris Tweed, the effectiveness of which is explored in this article. The final part of the paper considers the importance, in a globalising world, of European Union and international protection for valuable cultural ‘products’. But protection, whether at the national or international level, necessitates a difficult balance to be drawn between the interest in cultural innovation and development, on the one hand, and cultural preservation and the protection of the commercial interests of specific communities, on the other. The article concludes by exploring some of the practical and conceptual challenges associated with determining whether a product should be considered part of the cultural patrimony of the world or, rather, the property of a specific nation or cultural group.
- intellectual property
- cultural imagery