IGC Recommends Mandate Renewal to Continue Negotiations on Core Issues
July 16, 2007
A key committee of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), meeting in Geneva from July 3 to 12, 2007, recommended that the WIPO General Assembly should renew its mandate to continue work on intellectual property and traditional knowledge (TK), traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) (also termed 'expressions of folklore'), and genetic resources. The current mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) expires in December 2007.
Member states noted that the IGC had made progress on its substantive work, and agreed to work towards further convergence on the questions under its mandate, with a view to making recommendations to the WIPO General Assembly. Delegates also affirmed that the Committee’s work had greatly benefited from the enhanced participation of representatives of indigenous and local communities which had been made possible by various initiatives, including the successful launch of the WIPO Voluntary Fund (see PR/2007/499). The IGC session commenced with an Indigenous Panel, chaired by Mr. Greg Young‑Ing of the Opsakwayak Cree Nation, at which seven representatives of indigenous and local communities explained to the Committee their communities’ experiences, concerns and expectations regarding intellectual property and TK, TCEs, and Genetic Resources (GR).
WIPO Director General, Dr. Kamil Idris, applauded the positive spirit in which member states, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations had addressed the far-reaching and challenging issues that were before them. He said that “the open and cooperative manner in which discussions took place in the IGC augurs well for its renewed mandate. There is now a deeper understanding of the diversity of views held and stronger mutual respect for the different perspectives that are brought to the table. This is a solid foundation on which to base future work of these fundamentally important issues.”
This session concentrated on core issues for the protection of TK and TCEs, focusing on the fundamental policy challenges that are central to the quest for more effective protection against misuse and misappropriation. These issues cover such questions as definitions of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, the form and scope of protection, and the nature of the beneficiaries. This process has constituted the first systematic multilateral review of these fundamental intellectual property policy questions, building on a rich base of work in the Committee that has drawn on the experience of over 80 countries and many indigenous and local communities. The Committee requested the secretariat to prepare new working documents consolidating this exploration of the issues.
On genetic resources, the Committee reviewed the full range of options for its work in this area, on the basis also of an overview and reports from other UN agencies working in this field, including the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Food and Agricultural Organization, and the United Nations secretariat. The work of the Committee will continue with the options discussed and an update of work in the other forums. The options reviewed include patent disclosure requirements, with the European Community and Switzerland both proposing specific reforms to the patent system to provide for specific disclosure relating to genetic resources and traditional knowledge, and alternative proposals for dealing with the relationship between intellectual property and genetic resources; the interface between the patent system and genetic resources; and the intellectual property aspects of access and benefit-sharing contracts; and a factual update of international developments relevant to the genetic resources agenda item (see documents WIPO/GRTK/IC/11/8(a) and (b)). Peru tabled a further analysis of its national initiatives against biopiracy, and Japan updated and extended its proposal for a database to ensure that information on genetic resources is better taken into account in patent examination.
Subject to the decision of WIPO General Assembly to renew the IGC’s mandate, the next session of the IGC is anticipated to take place in February, 2008.
The IGC’s work was enlivened by three performances of traditional music and dance – a troupe of traditional Mongolian musicians and dancers, who also introduced their musical culture to participants in an informal seminar, a group of Geneva‑based traditional Indonesian musicians and dancers, who included the Chair of the IGC, Ambassador I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja of Indonesia, and an impromptu performance by one of the indigenous panelists, Ms. Chukhman of the Kamchatka region in Russia. These performances gave a vivid, immediate insight into the vitality and deep cultural significance of the diverse forms of traditional cultural expression that the Committee was addressing.
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