World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO and ICOM to Collaborate in Cultural Heritage and Museum Areas

Geneva, May 3, 2011
PR/2011/689

WIPO and the Paris-based International Council of Museums (ICOM) will collaborate in the management of intellectual property options, as well as the mediation of disputes in the area of cultural heritage and museums. This concerns in particular copyright, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, and digitization of cultural artifacts. A memorandum of understanding was signed by heads of both organizations at WIPO in Geneva on May 3, 2011. 

Museums can be involved in different types of disputes, revolving around, for example, intellectual property rights, the origin, custodianship and ownership of materials in their collections. The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center and ICOM are setting up a dedicated mediation process for the resolution of disputes. Special ICOM-WIPO Mediation Rules have been developed and parties will be able to choose from a joint list, comprising mediators with experience in cultural heritage and related areas. The mediation mechanism is expected to be operational in June. 

This collaboration is in line with WIPO’s ongoing work in the fields of copyright, cultural heritage, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, which is often carried out in consultation with cultural institutions, such as museums, archives and libraries, as well as with indigenous peoples and local communities and other stakeholders.  

In signing the memorandum of understanding, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said: “Collaboration between WIPO and ICOM reflects the many linkages between cultural heritage, including traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions as well as other indigenous cultural materials, and intellectual property in general. It highlights the important role of intellectual property management in relation to museums’ collections of the world’s many and diverse cultural riches. The sensitivities that can be associated with disputes in those sectors make it important to improve access to dispute resolution options”. 

Mr. Hans-Martin Hinz, President of ICOM, and Mr. Julien Anfruns, Director General of ICOM signed on behalf of ICOM, which is a non-profit non-governmental organization of museums and museum professionals, committed to the conservation, continuation and communication to society of the world's natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible. In signing, Mr. Anfruns said:  “In 2010, ICOM had the honor to orchestrate the donation of the Makonde mask to the United Republic of Tanzania. Today, together with WIPO, ICOM continues to develop its commitment to creating a constructive dialogue between parties involved in cultural heritage disputes.”

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