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WIPO Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) for Biodiversity

As part of the WIPO ADR Services for Specific Sectors, the WIPO Center provides dispute resolution advice and case administration services to help parties resolve disputes arising in the area of biodiversity, without the need for court litigation.

Biodiversity Disputes

Biodiversity disputes can concern a wide range of highly specific subject matters relating for example to patents, genetic resources, traditional knowledge, plant varieties, environment, and food. They are often international and can also involve sensitive non-legal components of a commercial, cultural, ethical, or moral nature.

As a flexible and confidential forum, ADR allows the consideration of such issues and helps parties to adopt sustainable and interest-based solutions that may go beyond monetary relief (e.g., specific performance such as the production of documents). Where indigenous communities are involved, ADR may also be a forum in which customary laws and protocols may be considered. ADR allows parties to choose a mediator, arbitrator or expert that has expertise in the specific subject matter, and understands the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the parties. It provides a neutral forum through which a global biodiversity dispute can be resolved through a single procedure.

The usefulness of ADR in this area has also been recognized in diverse international fora. For example, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity encourages mutually agreed terms to include options for alternative dispute resolution.

Selected Areas of Dispute

  • access and benefit sharing
  • bio-prospecting agreements
  • compliance
  • intellectual property agreements
  • licensing
  • misappropriation
  • misuse
  • mutually agreed terms (MAT)
  • patent disclosure
  • prior informed consent (PIC)
  • research and development agreements
  • standard material transfer agreements (SMTA)
  • technology transfer

Potential Stakeholders to Dispute

  • custodians of genetic resources
  • government agencies
  • indigenous communities
  • industry
  • insurance companies
  • intergovernmental organizations
  • nongovernmental organizations
  • research institutions
  • states
  • traditional knowledge holders and users
  • universities

WIPO ADR Services for Biodiversity

  • Administration of Biodiversity Disputes

The WIPO Mediation, (Expedited) Arbitration and Expert Determination Rules are well suited for biodiversity related disputes.

The WIPO Rules are flexible and can also be applied in disputes that are not limited to intellectual property. In its role as administering institution, the WIPO Center maintains strict neutrality and independence.

Examples of WIPO mediations in this area include:
- WIPO Mediation of a Biotech Dispute

Examples of WIPO arbitrations in this area include:
- WIPO Arbitration of a Biotech/Pharma Dispute

  • WIPO Biodiversity Panel of Neutrals

Effective proceedings to a large extent depend on the quality of the mediator, arbitrator or expert. The WIPO Center maintains an international open-ended Panel, including mediators, arbitrators and experts from around the world with expertise in biodiversity. They can be appointed by parties in cases under WIPO Rules but parties are also free to select mediators, arbitrators or experts from outside the WIPO Panel.

  • Procedural Guidance and Training

The WIPO Center makes available recommended contract clauses and submission agreements that parties can use to submit their disputes to ADR.

Upon request, the WIPO Center provides procedural guidance to interested parties and organizations in the biodiversity sector. This includes advice on the drafting and adaptation of ADR clauses in biodiversity related contracts and submission agreements, as well as helping to bring disputing parties to ADR.

The WIPO Center also organizes training and workshops on mediation, arbitration and related topics.

  • Establishment of Adapted ADR Frameworks

Where appropriate in light of the needs of the relevant stakeholders, the WIPO Center provides guidance in the establishment of adapted ADR frameworks, including Rules, fees and clauses, and provides administrative services thereunder.

Collaboration with Concerned Stakeholders and Entities

To optimize dispute resolution in the biodiversity sector, the WIPO Center collaborates with relevant stakeholders and organizations. This may include organization of joint events and training, and establishment of adapted ADR frameworks, and involves for example the following:

  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

The WIPO Center has provided technical assistance in the development of "Procedures for the Operation of the Third Party Beneficiary" and “Rules for Mediation of a Dispute in Relation to a Standard Material Transfer Agreement” in the context of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) of November 3, 2001. In March 2011, the WIPO Center was appointed by the ITPGRFA to act as Administrator under these Mediation Rules.

The WIPO Center is available to collaborate with other interested stakeholders.

Collaboration with Other WIPO Divisions

In the biodiversity sector, the WIPO Center collaborates in particular with WIPO’s Program on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions, and with WIPO’s program on Global Challenges.

WIPO ADR Services for Biodiversity are operationally distinct from and without prejudice to ongoing normative discussions in the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) and elsewhere. The WIPO ADR service is intended as a voluntary and complementary mechanism and does not substitute or interfere with ongoing IGC discussions.

Selected Resources


Arbitration and Mediation Center
Arbitration and Mediation Center
34, chemin des Colombettes
P.O. Box 18
1211 Geneva 20
T +4122 338 8247 or 0800 888 549
F +4122 740 3700 or 0800 888 550
Maxwell Chambers
28 Maxwell Road #02-14
Singapore 069120

T +65 6225 2129
F +65 6225 3568

General queries: arbiter.mail@wipo.int