IGC Resumes Substantive Work

Geneva, December 11, 2009

WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) reviewed draft provisions for the protection of traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) and traditional knowledge (TK), and considered options for future work on intellectual property (IP) and genetic resources at a meeting from December 7 to 11, 2009, paving the way for mandated negotiations in 2010. 

Initial proposed amendments to a number of key documents presented by the secretariat will be taken into account in the IGC’s “text-based negotiations” in 2010 in line with its new mandate, agreed in a consensus decision by WIPO’s 184 member states in October 2009.  Under this mandate negotiations will be launched to ensure the effective protection of TK, GRs and TCEs through the development of an international legal instrument.  This week’s session marked the resumption of the IGC’s substantive work after a lengthy focus on procedural questions. 

The new mandate calls for a “clearly defined work program” and makes provision for four formal sessions of the IGC and three inter-sessional working group meetings over the next two years. This week’s meeting also considered these issues. Further discussion within the IGC will be required to agree on the composition of the working groups and their mandates and other related issues. Discussions on inter-sessional modalities were based largely on a formal proposal by the African Group. Proposals were also presented during the meeting by the group of industrialized countries (Group B) and several other delegations.  

Newly elected IGC Chairman, Ambassador Juan José Gómez Camacho, said significant headway had been made which reflected a genuine degree of convergence. At the end, delegations were only “a centimeter apart” on agreeing on the modalities for the inter-sessional work program. The next session of the IGC will consider these matters further. 


Under its new mandate, the IGC is to move to “text-based negotiations” to build on the Committee’s work to date. The mandate refers to three specific documents which, in addition to all the Committee’s other documents, should “constitute the basis of the Committee’s work on text-based negotiations”. These include draft instruments for the protection of TCEs and TK. These draft instruments were prepared by the WIPO secretariat and published in early 2006, following extensive consultations and an inter-sessional commentary process. The document relevant to genetic resources outlines a list of options for continued work on the interface between the patent system and genetic resources. 

Under the new mandate the IGC is to submit the texts of the international legal instrument (or instruments) to the WIPO General Assembly in September 2011. The Assembly would then decide on convening a Diplomatic Conference. If and when a diplomatic conference is convened on these matters, any instrument(s) adopted would become legally binding on those states which choose to ratify it/them. A full program of IGC meetings and inter-sessional work between now and September 2011 is stipulated in the mandate. 

Since its inception in 2001, the work of the WIPO IGC has uniquely featured extensive participation by representatives of indigenous and local communities. Over 200 NGOs are accredited to the IGC, many representing such communities. The WIPO Voluntary Fund finances the participation of several community representatives to each of the IGC’s sessions. Their continued, direct and effective participation in the IGC’s work will be key to its success.

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