WIPO Side Event Addresses Recent Developments Related To The Nagoya Protocol

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At the World Intellectual Property Organization meeting on protection of genetic resources last week, the secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) organised a side event to introduce the key features and recent developments of the international protocol on access and benefit-sharing of such resources.

The panel was held on 7 February, alongside the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). At issue is the 2010 Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the CBD.

Speaking on the panel, Beatriz Gomez Castro, associate programme officer at the secretariat of the CBD, pointed out that the conclusion of the protocol was driven by a “need for legal certainty and transparency”. She said the protocol was adopted in October 2010 to further implement “fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources” – one of the three objectives of the CBD – with a focus on the utilisation, applications and commercialisation of genetic resources.

She also emphasised compliance obligations to ensure benefit-sharing. These compliance requirements encompass – among others – an obligation to comply with national access and benefit-sharing legislation and a requirement to monitor the utilisation of the genetic resources.

To monitor the utilisation of genetic resources, she stressed the need to designate one or more effective checkpoints. For her, checkpoints are “relevant for the collection of information at any stage of research, development, innovation, pre-commercialisation or commercialisation.”

“Examples of checkpoints could be research publishing houses, requirement for public funding, patent examination offices, authorities providing regulatory or marketing approval of products,” she said.

The presentation tackled the first part of Article 1 of the Nagoya protocol, but failed to address the issue of technology transfer which is an important element for many developing countries. Article 1 of the Nayoga Protocol reads:

“The objective of this Protocol is the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources, including by appropriate access to genetic resources and by appropriate transfer of relevant technologies (…).”

But the event did not take the opportunity to analyse recent developments or rising issues around transfer of technology.

As of this month, 92 parties had signed the protocol, but only 14 countries had ratified it (Albania, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, India, Jordan, Lao, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Panama, Rwanda, South Africa and Seychelles). This remains quite far from the 50 ratifications needed for the entry into force of the protocol.

Gomez Castro pointed to different initiatives that she qualified as progress towards the entry into force. These range from information-sharing programs to awareness-raising activities and support to countries.

Tiphaine Nunzia Caulier recently graduated with a Master in International Law from the Graduate Institute in Geneva and UCLA School of Law. Through her work experiences and academic interests she has specialized in international trade, intellectual property, and public health.

Tiphaine Nunzia Caulier may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

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  1. Tim Roberts says

    The Protocol has little to say on the transfer of relevant technologies – nor is it clear what it could offer, apart from exhortation. Part of the idea behind the CBD is that of exchanging genetic resources for technology. However the Protocol has more relevance to rights in resources than to rights in technologies. Thus there is no provision that the country of origin of a technology has sovereign rights over it. In consequence, in contrast with genetic resources, Prior Informed Consent to access technology is not required, nor to do research on it.

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