IGC 18 Update: WIPO negotiators refine texts on traditional knowledge, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions

May 16, 2011

Update, May 13, 2011

Progress in negotiations among WIPO member States and observers at the 18th session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee (the IGC), which met from May 9 to 13, 2011, has resulted – for the first time - in a single negotiating text on each of the three items referred to in its mandate - traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources.  The IGC session was chaired by Ambassador Philip Owade (Kenya).

IGC 18 followed two Intersessional Working Groups (IWGs) in February and March 2011 that had addressed traditional knowledge and genetic resources, respectively.

On traditional knowledge, the IWG had developed a text of articles on the protection of traditional knowledge.  The IGC accepted this text as the basis for negotiations, and, after a lengthy plenary discussion on the text, broke into an informal, open-ended drafting group to reduce the number of options, especially where differences were largely a matter of drafting. 

The drafting group met in the evenings, and reported back to the plenary at the end of the session on Friday May 13, 2011.  The streamlined text developed by the drafting group was noted by the IGC and transmitted to the next IGC (July 18 to 22, 2011). 

The drafting group was chaired by Mr. José Ramon Lopez de Leon (Mexico, who is a Vice-chair of the IGC), and its rapporteur was Ms. Kim Connolly-Stone (New Zealand).  The text addresses questions such as a definition of traditional knowledge, beneficiaries of protection and the scope of rights to be granted in traditional knowledge and how they would be managed and enforced. 

The IWG on genetic resources had developed a draft text on objectives and principles on the relationship between intellectual property and genetic resources.  The IGC accepted that text as a basis for its ongoing work, and an open-ended informal drafting group was established to refine and streamline the text, especially to reduce the number of options where these were largely a matter of drafting.  Under the chairmanship of Mr. Vladimir Yossifov (Bulgaria, who is also a Vice-chair of the IGC) and with the assistance of rapporteur Mr. Ian Goss (Australia), the drafting group made progress in merging several options.  The modified objectives and principles were noted by the IGC and transmitted to IGC 19.

The objectives and principles on intellectual property and genetic resources deal with conditions for access to and use of genetic resources, the prevention of erroneous patents, information systems to enable patent offices to make proper decisions in granting patents, the relationship between intellectual property and other relevant international agreements and processes, and the role of the intellectual property system in relation to genetic resources.

These are complemented by certain options for future work, including a proposed mandatory disclosure requirement, defensive databases and intellectual property clauses in mutually agreed terms for access and equitable benefit sharing.  The IWG on genetic resources had undertaken an extensive, technical and interactive discussion of these options.  Discussions on these options for future work will continue at IGC 19.

Another open-ended informal drafting group was also established to further streamline the current text of articles on traditional cultural expressions. The modified text was noted by the IGC in plenary and transmitted to IGC 19. The drafting group was chaired by Mrs. Savitri Suwansathit from Thailand, who also acted as its rapporteur.

The plenary and drafting group discussions were characterized by a positive working atmosphere and constructive interaction among delegates from all regions.

Glossaries on the three items will also be re-published for the next IGC session.

IGC Chair, Ambassador Philip Owade, separately met with the indigenous participants during the week to discuss their concerns regarding their status in the negotiations. The Chair expressed to the plenary his full appreciation for their concerns and encouraged indigenous participants and state representatives to interact more frequently.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues, Professor James Anaya, delivered a keynote at this IGC’s panel on indigenous peoples’ collective rights on May 9, 2011.

On May 10, 2011, WIPO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
co-organized a side-event on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 

The WIPO Voluntary Fund for Accredited Indigenous and Local Communities will fund several indigenous participants at IGC 19.  Fund-raising efforts to ensure the widest participation of indigenous participants will continue. The Committee noted and warmly welcomed the contributions made to the Fund by the Government of South Africa and an anonymous contributor.

Several additional NGOs were accredited to the IGC and WIPO continued to fund a dedicated secretariat for indigenous participants during IGC sessions.

The 18th session of the IGC also saw the screening of a United Nations Television (UNTV) film on WIPO’s Creative Heritage training program “Digitizing Traditional Culture in Kenya”.