WIPO Seminar on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources Offers a Forum for Empirical Experiences, Perspectives and New Ideas

January 26, 2021

From vaccines to new food crops and biofuels, the relationship between intellectual property (IP) and genetic resources requires a delicate balance between fostering innovation and protecting the rights and interests of biodiversity-rich countries and Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs).

Gathering virtually, experts in the field as well as representatives of IPLCs and industry came together for the “Seminar on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources,” taking the opportunity to share experiences and discuss their views and on-going work on new technologies for the collection, conservation and utilization of genetic resources.

With a daily attendance of 300 participants, representing over 100 countries, the three-day seminar successfully concluded on Friday, January 22, 2021.

Photo: Following opening remarks, WIPO Director General Daren Tang turns the floor over to Ambassador Socorro Flores Liera who moderated the first day of the seminar

WIPO Director General Daren Tang welcomed the participants to the three-day seminar by emphasizing the importance of genetic resources for innovation and their impactful role in human welfare and in the promotion of sustainable development.

In addition to the disruptions and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, profound technological shifts are underway as part of what is referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Mr. Tang (highlighting dramatic new uses of genetic resources and genetic data)

We are witnessing rapid advances in synthetic and molecular biology and information technology, and an exponential growth of genetic data, leading to innovation and new products and services, and posing new policy and legal challenges, including in the IP field

Mr. Tang

Recalling the Organization’s work on genetic resources -- practically useful services, guides and training courses -- Mr. Tang encouraged IP policy makers to explore how an enhanced IP-based ecosystem might best respond to these emerging challenges.

During the seminar, renowned experts in the field presented on various regional, national and local experiences. Representatives of IPLCs and industry also shared their views and experiences and discussed their knowledge and work on new technologies for the collection, conservation and utilization of genetic resources.

Topics included “Disclosure Requirements relating to Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge,” “Information Systems and Due Diligence Mechanisms relating to Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge” and “IP and Genetic Resources: New and Emerging Technologies.” All presentations are available online.

In his closing remarks, Mr. Wend Wendland, Director of the WIPO Traditional Knowledge Division, lauded the seminar for fostering a space in which participants could share empirical information, exchange perspectives and float new ideas. Such seminars, he concluded, allow for a more evidence-based approach, contributing directly to the work of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC).

Background: Seminar on IP and Genetic Resources

The WIPO IGC is negotiating an international legal instrument(s) for the protection of traditional knowledge (TK), traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) and genetic resources (GRs).

The “Seminar on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources” is not formally part of the negotiations by the IGC, providing instead an informative supplement to the text-based negotiations with a more evidence-based approach.

The seminar was moderated by Ambassador Socorro Flores Liera, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva, Ms. Hilda Al-Hinai, Deputy and Permanent Representative of the Sultanate of Oman to the World Trade Organization, and Professor Margo Bagley, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Law at the Emory University School of Law in the United States of America.

While the seminar was not intended to have any conclusion or formal outcome as such, the roundtables offered plenty of materials for reflection and use in the IGC’s negotiations as well as in policy development at the national and regional levels.

Links to further information on the topics covered by the Seminar