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June 2010

IGC’s Work Advances

The first session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) under its new mandate to conduct "text-based negotiations" to reach agreement on an international legal instrument (or instruments) that would ensure the effective protection of traditional knowledge (TK), traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) and genetic resources (GRs) made significant progress. Committee Chair Ambassador Philip Owade of Kenya noted that the IGC had "broken new ground and that serious work lay ahead."

During the session, held from May 3 to 7, the IGC agreed on arrangements for intersessional working groups (IWGs), establishing a foundation for continued negotiating rounds. The IWGs will support and facilitate negotiations by providing legal and technical advice and analysis, including, where appropriate, options and scenarios. Participation in IWGs is open to all Member States and accredited observers. Each delegation will be represented by one expert. WIPO will fund a significant number of participants from developing countries and countries in transition, including participants from 71 countries in the first IWG session, tentatively scheduled from July 19 to 23. The first session will focus on TCEs, widely considered to be the most mature of the issues on the IGC's agenda.

The IGC began negotiations on the substance of draft international provisions for the protection of TK and TCEs. Further versions will now be prepared by the secretariat for the IGC's consideration. Information notes on the public domain as it relates to TK and TCEs and on the various forms in which TK can be found (e.g. disclosed and non-disclosed) will also be drafted.

Constructive discussions took place on options for advancing work on intellectual property (IP) issues associated with GRs, and the related working document will be updated accordingly. A new working document on objectives and principles for IP and GRs, submitted towards the end of the meeting by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway and the U.S., will be discussed further at the IGC’s December session.

Online Forum on Access to Copyrighted Works by the Visually Impaired

An online forum to promote the exchange of ideas and build consensus on international measures for improving access to copyright-protected works in formats suitable for visually impaired persons and others with print disabilities (VIPs) was launched by WIPO in May. The Forum, which will remain open at least until June 20, 2010, aims to stimulate debate, enhance understanding and broaden awareness of the question.

While sighted individuals enjoy unprecedented access to copyright-protected content, in some contexts, social, economic, technological and legal factors, including the operation of copyright protection systems, can seriously impede access to such works by the blind or reading impaired. Widespread use of digital technologies, in particular, has prompted reconsideration of how best to balance protection for copyright owners and the needs of specific user groups, such as reading impaired persons.

In May 2009, Brazil, Ecuador and Paraguay submitted to WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) a draft treaty proposal, prepared by the World Blind Union (WBU), to spearhead international discussion on a multilateral legal framework on limitations and exceptions to international copyright law for the benefit of VIPs and the reading disabled.

This proposal, along with other contributions from SCCR members, will be submitted for consideration in the SCCR.

The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.