WIPO Traditional Knowledge Committee On Way To New Mandate

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Delegates working on an international instrument to protect traditional knowledge and folklore against misappropriation today agreed to ask the World Intellectual Property Organization General Assembly in September to extend the mandate of the committee working on those issues.

The 19th session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) met from 18-22 July.

With what appeared to be difficult views to bridge at the beginning of the week, intense informal sessions of a dedicated group of delegates known as “friends of the chair” produced a document on the future work of a renewed IGC and its mandate [pdf], this afternoon that was agreed in plenary.

It was crucial for the IGC that delegates agree on future work of the committee since this meeting was the last of the IGC’s mandate and a renewal of the mandate is only possible if decided by the WIPO General Assembly.

According to the document produced this afternoon, the IGC will continue its work on text-based negotiations “with the objective of reaching agreement on a text(s) of an international legal instrument(s) which will ensure the effective protection” of genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions. But the first next negotiating meeting will not be held for half a year from now.

The IGC will submit to the 2012 WIPO General Assembly the resulting texts and the General Assembly should “take stock of and consider the text(s), progress made and decide on convening a Diplomatic Conference, and will consider additional meetings, taking account of the budgetary process.”

The work plan is as follows:

February 2012: IGC 20 will be on genetic resources. It will be an extended session spanning over 8 days, including Saturday. This meeting will undertake text-bases negotiations and consider options for a draft legal text.

April/May 2012: IGC 21 will address traditional knowledge and focus on the following four key articles: subject matter of protection, beneficiaries, scope of protection, and limitations and exceptions.

July 2012: IGC 22 will be on traditional cultural expressions and will focus on the same key articles as for traditional knowledge above.

In 2013, IGC 23 will consider the decision of the WIPO General Assembly and take stock of further work required to finalise negotiating texts.

This work plan represents the middle ground of what different countries were asking for at the beginning of the week. In particular, it satisfies the Group B developed countries by limiting the number of meetings to four, and it answers the wish of developing countries to have more time to deal with genetic resources.

Delegates also adopted the draft decisions of the 19th session [pdf] with minor amendments. According to those draft decisions, the texts produced by facilitators this week on traditional cultural expressions and traditional knowledge will be taken forward to the next meeting in February 2012, and included in the texts produced at the last session of the IGC. The facilitators’ texts on both areas only focused on the four key items: subject matter of protection, beneficiaries, scope of protection, and limitations and exceptions.

According to the draft decisions, the contribution to the draft articles on the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions made by the so-called like-minded group of developing countries will be transmitted as a working document to the next session of the committee.

On genetic resources, the document presented by the facilitators should be carried on to the next meeting and incorporated in the previous document on objectives and principles drafted at the last meeting of the IGC. The committee also asked that the document from the like-minded countries, including a set of draft articles on the protection of genetic resources, be transmitted as a working document at the next session.

The amended draft decisions will be available in the coming days on WIPO website, according to WIPO. Amendments included the deletion of the mention of intersessional working groups of the IGC, since they are not planned in the future work plan, and Bolivia asking that a mention be made of their concern about patents on life and life-forms.

Documents for the next session will include previous draft articles issued at the 18th session of the IGC and texts from facilitators issued at this week’s 19th session (IPW, WIPO, 22 July 2011). Those documents will also include proposed texts from the like-minded countries.

Indigenous Peoples Ask for Full and Effective Participation

In a statement made today, a caucus of indigenous peoples participants said that a “primary objective of the international legal instrument(s) must be to protect Indigenous Peoples’ rights and interests as the owners/holders of TK, TCE, and GRs.”

They also asked that the term “Indigenous Peoples” be adopted by the IGC in compliance with international norms, and that Indigenous Peoples must have the right to “redress, including repatriation of, any of their TK, TCEs, and GRs taken or used without their free, prior and informed consent.”

On participation and future work, demanded effective participation in all regular and special sessions of the IGC, the General Assembly, diplomatic conference and any other related meetings relating to the potential legal instrument(s).

“Indigenous Peoples Rights of Self-Determination and Permanent Sovereignty Over Natural Resources must be recognized in preambular and operative text of the final instruments,” the statement said.

Catherine Saez may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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