WIPO Member States Continue Work on Protection of Traditional Knowledge and Cultural Expressions

Geneva, May 4, 2006
Press Updates UPD/2006/272

The Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Folklore met at the WIPO headquarters in Geneva from April 24 to 28, 2006 to continue work on the protection of TK, Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs) and Genetic Resources.

The IGC focused on two, complementary sets of draft provisions ('objectives and principles') which set out the elements of sui generis protection of TCEs and TK. These are tailored to respond to the needs and expectations voiced by the traditional custodians of TCEs and TK, and the sensitive policy and legal context surrounding protection of these invaluable manifestation of communities' cultural and intellectual diversity. The Committee also took stock of its outcomes to date on IP and genetic resources, and reviewed proposals for future work in that domain. Its work was assisted by a paper on the practicalities of giving effect to the international dimension of the IGC's work. This paper canvassed various possible Committee outcomes, including a range of international instruments. WIPO member states extensively debated the merits of these different options, but left the precise way forward open for future meetings to resolve.

The voice of indigenous and local communities continued to be central to the work of the IGC. The number of observers specially accredited to the IGC rose to over 130, the majority representing indigenous and local communities and other TK holders. This session commenced with a senior member of the Tulalip Tribes, a North American indigenous community, in the chair, joined by panelists from indigenous communities in Brazil, Canada, Kenya, Panama, the Philippines, Russia and Vanuatu. These representatives explained to the Committee their communities' experiences and concerns regarding TCEs, TK and related genetic resources, and the role of intellectual property systems. These communities have consistently called for due recognition and respect for their customary laws and protocols, echoing references to customary law in the Committee's working documents and a study process on customary law commissioned by the IGC.

The moves towards enhanced participation of indigenous and local communities culminated in the practical launch of a voluntary fund that will directly support the participation of these communities in the work of the IGC. Following financial pledges to the voluntary fund, the IGC appointed an Advisory Board, comprising members of government delegations and indigenous and local communities, which concluded recommendations on beneficiaries from the Fund. Details of the operation of the Voluntary Fund are available at https://www.wipo.int/tk/en/ngoparticipation/voluntary_fund/index.html.

For other details of the work of the IGC, including its working documents, visit www.wipo.int/tk

For further information, please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO: Tel: (+41 22) 338 81 61 or (+41 22) 338 95 47; E-mail: publicinf@wipo.int; Fax: (+41 22) 338 82 80.