IGC 24 Update: Negotiators Advance on Core Issues Related to Traditional Knowledge

April 30, 2013

Geneva, April 29, 2013

A meeting of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) from April22to26, 2013 made good progress on key issues on its agenda.  Discussions concluded with an improved draft text of an international legal instrument on intellectual property and traditional knowledge which will be submitted to the September2013 session of the WIPO General Assembly.  The General Assembly will take stock of progress made and decide on convening a diplomatic conference.

The IGC session was marked by intense substantive examination of four fundamental issues:  defining “traditional knowledge”, identifying the beneficiaries of protection, framing the scope of rights and carving out appropriate exceptions and limitations.  While welcoming progress in the discussions, delegates – both member states and observers – recognized the complexity of the issues.

The session, chaired by Ambassador Wayne McCook of Jamaica, was preceded by a three-day Indigenous Expert Workshop, co-organized by the WIPO Secretariat and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  

Further detailed information…

The session had begun with a review in plenary session of the document WIPO/GRTKF/IC/24/4, “The Protection of Traditional Knowledge:  Draft Articles.”  The IGC then established an informal expert group that worked on the core issues, with a view to reducing the number of options and streamlining the text.  The group comprised around 38 experts, with up to six experts per region nominated by the member states, as well as two indigenous experts nominated by indigenous peoples participating in the session.  In the interest of transparency, other delegates sat in on the work of the group as observers.  Indigenous peoples were also able to nominate two observers to follow the negotiations.  All other participants were able to follow the expert group’s deliberations via audio and video feed, according to language preferences, in adjoining rooms.

The plenary requested Mr. Nicolas Lesieur (Canada), Ms. Andrea Bonnet Lopez (Colombia) and Mr. Emmanuel Sackey (African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO)) to act as “facilitators” and tasked them to prepare the further drafts of the text based on the discussions of the plenary and the work of the expert group.  To strengthen coordination among the three ongoing thematic negotiations within the IGC (genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions), the Chair advised the plenary that he had requested Mr. Ian Goss (Australia) to support the work of the facilitators during the session.

The expert group worked on the text on Tuesday, April 27, 2013.  On Wednesday, April 28, a first revision of the text was presented by the facilitators to the plenary for review.  The expert group continued its work on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday.  A second revision by the facilitators (Rev. 2) was circulated on Thursday night.  A final review of Rev. 2, for obvious errors and omissions, was carried out by the plenary on Friday, April 26, 2013.  Any factual errors and omissions identified in this review will be addressed by the facilitators as they ‘clean up’ the text after the session and ready it for transmission to the WIPO General Assembly.  Other comments comprising new textual proposals and other substantive comments will be reflected in the report of the session. 

The IGC decided that the text will be transmitted to the WIPO General Assembly, which will meet from September 23 to October 2, 2013.  In accordance with the IGC’s mandate and work program for 2013, the WIPO General Assembly will inter alia take stock of progress made and decide on convening a diplomatic conference.

The IGC successfully introduced the creative use of informal, small, yet open-ended drafting groups on specific issues led by key proponents and stakeholders.

The Rev. 2, as so corrected and cleaned up, will be available on the WIPO website shortly.

Three submissions were received and prepared for the session, as working documents (these were re-submissions of submissions that had been made at the IGC’s 23rd session in February 2013):  a Joint Recommendation on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge (resubmitted by the Delegations of Canada, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America); a Proposal for the Terms of Reference for the Study by the WIPO Secretariat on Measures Related to the Avoidance of the Erroneous Grant of Patents and Compliance with Existing Access and Benefit-Sharing Systems (resubmitted by the Delegations of Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States of America); and a Joint Recommendation on The Use of Databases for the Defensive Protection of Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge Associated with Genetic Resources (resubmitted by the Delegations of Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States of America).  These documents were noted.  

In line with further attempts to strengthen observer participation, the WIPO Secretariat provided an extensive briefing for observers on the first day of the session.  Attention was again drawn to the new “indigenous portal”, an initiative of the WIPO Secretariat aimed at easing direct access to resources regarding and of particular interest to indigenous peoples and local communities.  The IGC Chair, Ambassador Wayne McCook, met with the indigenous caucus before the session.  Prior to the session, an Indigenous Expert Workshop, which attracted prominent experts from the various regions of the world, was organized by WIPO and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).  The discussions that took place in the workshop served as valuable input to the preparations of the indigenous representatives during the session.

A total of eight organizations were accredited as new observers at the session.  The WIPO Voluntary Fund for Accredited Indigenous and Local Communities funded two indigenous and local community participants at the session.  The Chair of the IGC and the Secretariat reminded the IGC, however, that the Voluntary Fund is in dire need of new contributions.  The WIPO Secretariat continued to fund secretarial services for indigenous and local communities at the session, provided by the Documentation Centre for Indigenous Peoples (DoCip).

The session began with an indigenous panel which focused specifically on the perspectives of indigenous peoples with respect to their right to maintain, control, protect, and develop their intellectual property over traditional knowledge.  Mr. Robert Leslie Malezer, Co-Chair, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, Sydney, Australia, made a keynote speech.  Other panelists were Ms. Lucy Mulenkei, Executive Director of the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), Kenya, and Mr. Preston Hardison, natural resources treaty rights policy analyst for the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, United States of America.  The Panel was chaired by Mr. Nelson De León Kantule of the Asociación Kunas unidos por Napguana – (KUNA).

The draft report of IGC 24 will be tabled for adoption at IGC 25 which will be held from July 15 to 24, 2013.

The Committee was attended by participants from 95 countries and 49 observers and the European Union.  As already noted, it was chaired by Ambassador Wayne McCook (Jamaica), with Ms. Alexandra Grazioli (Switzerland) and Mr. Bebeb Djundjunan (Indonesia) as Vice-Chairs.

A number of side-events held during the session attracted strong interest.  These were: 

  •  "Increased Legal Certainty?  Case studies from Brazil and India", presented by the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC).
  • The WIPO TK Documentation Toolkit”, presented by the WIPO Secretariat.

The presentations made at the side events, as well as the Indigenous Panel’s presentations, are available on the WIPO web site.

The Twenty-Fifth session of the IGC, which will address the theme of traditional cultural expressions, and provide an additional three days for stock-taking, will take place from July 15 to 24, 2013.