International IP law is largely silent on traditional knowledge (TK) and there is, therefore, flexibility and scope for States and regional organizations to establish sui generis protection systems, as several have done. Traditional cultural expressions/folklore (TCEs) are addressed to some extent in some international IP treaties, and, once again, many States and regional organizations have established sui generis laws for TCEs.
At the same time, at the international level, text-based negotiations are underway in the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on IP and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) towards the development of an international legal instrument or instruments which will provide effective protection for TK and TCEs – this work has included consideration of flexibilities within conventional IP systems which allow for the enhanced protection of TK and TCEs, as well as sui generis adaptations to existing IP systems.
The IGC is also discussing the relationship between IP and access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources, and is considering several options in this regard, including options within the IP system. The IGC’s negotiations are ongoing.