IGC Moves Ahead on Traditional Knowledge Protection

Geneva, June 25, 2002
Press Releases PR/2002/317

The third meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which met from June 13 to 21, 2002, dealt with diverse aspects of the interaction between the intellectual property (IP) system, and genetic resources, traditional knowledge (TK) and expressions of traditional cultures. The meeting covered immediate practical measures and broader policy and legal issues concerning the protection of TK.

Outcomes of the IGC meeting included:

  • Progress towards creating a searchable electronic database of contractual practices and clauses relating to intellectual property, access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing. A wide range of stakeholders will be asked to contribute contract and license clauses and share their experience so as to create a practical resource to assist those concerned with IP aspects of genetic resources.
  • Initiation of a technical study on laws requiring patent applicants to disclose details such as the source of genetic resources or any traditional knowledge, innovations and practices used in a claimed invention, and evidence that this material was obtained with prior informed consent. This takes up an invitation by the Sixth Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
  • Delegates endorsed the development of a Portal of Traditional Knowledge Databases by WIPO as a pilot project to advance the study of IP aspects of TK databases, especially improving access of patent examiners to details of TK so as to identify patent claims that cover existing knowledge. The Portal, which was launched at the meeting, can be accessed at: https://www.wipo.int/globalissues/tk/tkportal/index.html.
  • Agreement was reached on a program of cooperation on documentation of TK in the public domain. This will include a "Toolkit" that gives practical advice to those assessing the IP implications of TK documentation, and a survey of the objectives, functional requirements and technical specifications of existing TK database initiatives. This came following demonstrations of national TK database initiatives by China, India and Venezuela.
  • Substantial policy discussion on the range of legal options for protecting TK, including better ways of using existing IP laws and a review of the elements of a possible sui generis system for protecting TK and ways of defining TK.
  • Studies were commissioned on national experiences of the protection of folklore, both through existing IP systems (such as copyright) or specific folklore legislation, and on the role of customary laws and protocols in the protection of expressions of folklore and the relationship between customary law and existing IP law.

These outcomes will form the basis of further IGC work at its next meeting in December 2002. IGC participants welcomed the close collaboration between WIPO and the CBD, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its Commission on Genetic Resources, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The IGC also welcomed WIPO's existing cooperation with the newly-established United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and encouraged WIPO to work closely with the Forum.

The IGC, established by the WIPO General Assembly in October 2000, is open to all member states of WIPO or the Paris Union for the Protection of Industrial Property. Other United Nations member states, intergovernmental organizations and accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) may participate as observers. The IGC has also accredited 55 additional NGOs as ad hoc observers, representing a wide range of TK and related interests.

For further information, please contact the Media Relations and Public Affairs Section at WIPO:

  • Tel: (+41 22) - 338 81 61 or 338 95 47
  • Fax: (+41 22) - 338 88 10
  • Email: publicinf@wipo.int.