World Intellectual Property Organization

Committee Meetings

July 2005

Work on Traditional Knowledge and Folklore Receives Broad Support

WIPO Member States, attending the June 6 to 10 meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) affirmed broad support for this key Committee's work on the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) and expressions of traditional culture/folklore (TCEs). They recommended that the WIPO General Assembly extend the IGC's mandate to continue this work.

The meeting opened with a panel, chaired by indigenous leader Stanley Jones of the Tulalip Tribes, during which indigenous and traditional community representatives from Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States of America and Zambia presented their communities' experiences and recommendations to the IGC. The IGC has agreed to begin each of its sessions with such an indigenous-chaired panel. The Committee accredited 12 more NGOs, raising to over 110 the number of NGOs specially accredited to the IGC. Many of these represent the interests of indigenous peoples or traditional communities. The IGC broadly supported a proposal for a WIPO Voluntary Contribution Fund to enhance the participation of representatives of indigenous and local communities in its work. The WIPO General Assembly will consider a revised version of this proposal.

TK and TCEs

The IGC reviewed sets of draft provisions outlining objectives and principles for the protection of TK and TCEs. The provisions aim to frame the policy and legal space for protection against misappropriation and misuse, and help define the legal measures for this protection. The approach to protection that is being explored would potentially apply indefinitely for TK and TCEs which are the products of intellectual activity, whether communal or individual, and which are characteristic of a community's cultural and social identity and cultural heritage. The principal beneficiaries would be communities in whom the custody of the TK or TCEs has been entrusted under customary law and who still maintain, use or develop them. The draft provisions are neutral as to legal form and could be used as a basis for a national or regional law, a recommendation, model provisions, a treaty or other form of outcome. Many WIPO Member States have called for the development of binding international law in this area. The current IGC mandate refers to an international instrument as a possible outcome, but Member States are yet to reach a common position on the legal status of the outcome of the IGC.

These provisions were a second draft, following an open commenting process established at the previous session of the IGC in November 2004, when the earlier drafts were accepted by all IGC participants as the basis for its substantive work. The texts, and the comments received, are available as documents WIPO/GRTKF/IC/8/4 (TCEs) and WIPO/GRTKF/IC/8/5 (TK).

Delegates welcomed the progress made so far by the IGC. Several reported on current regional and national processes, many of which were prompted and guided by the discussions in the IGC. Delegates also recognized the complexity of the issues raised , which required careful consideration and reflection. Diverse views were expressed on the substance of the drafts, as well as on the pace, nature and expected outcomes of future work in these areas. There was broad support for continued work, leading to the consensus recommendation to extend the IGC's mandate.

Genetic Resources

The IGC reviewed several documents on genetic resources issues, including submissions from various Member States, but drew no specific conclusions. The European Community tabled a paper on the disclosure of origin or source of genetic resources and associated TK, which proposed a “binding disclosure requirement that should be applied to all patent applications.” Peru and Portugal tabled papers on their national measures concerning genetic resources and sui generis protection of TK respectively. A submission by the United States of America dealt with the relationship between TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the protection of TK and folklore. Delegates recommended that the IGC’s future mandate continue to address genetic resources issues.

Work on related genetic resources issues was advanced by a separate Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Meeting on Genetic Resources and Disclosure Requirements, just prior to the IGC. This meeting was convened to consider a draft study on the relationship between genetic resources and disclosure requirements in the IP system. The study was prepared at the invitation of the Conference of Parties of the CBD, as part of a continuing dialogue between the two organizations on these issues. Participants reviewed the draft (document WIPO/IP/GR/05/3), many stressing the need for WIPO's work in this area to be supportive of the goals of the CBD, including its objectives of the conservation of biodiversity, sustainable use of its components, and equitable sharing of benefits.

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