Perplexed About International Policy On GR, TK and TCEs? Here’s A Book

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By Catherine Saez

Two scientists with a connection to Geneva have published an unorthodox e-book entitled, Guide for the perplexed entering the Maze of Genetic Resources Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.

Book co-author Anne Gut is a cellular biologist formerly working at the Medicine Faculty of the University of Geneva, and Bruno Vitale, the other co-author of the book is a theoretical physicist, formerly at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and professor of quantum mechanics at the Science Faculty of the University of Naples.

The e-book [doc] proposes to help its readers understand the whys and wherefores of the discussions taking place in international organisations on genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, notably at the World Intellectual Property Organization in the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). The IGC is working on an international instrument or instruments to prevent misuse and misappropriation of those cultural and genetic resources.

WIPO has spent 10 years working on definitions and glossaries “without a single word on belief versus knowledge, and traditional practices versus methodological precautions,” Vitale told Intellectual Property Watch.

The publication also explores the origins and motivations at the root of the World Health Organization involvement in traditional medical knowledge, and their attempt to define “methodological guidelines,” Vitale said.

In the book, the authors say they had originally been researching on IP and access to medicines and on the role of international organisations in development and health in poor countries when they realised that part of the interplay between IP rights and access to essential drugs was taking place at WIPO.

The authors say they were observers at the IGC in 2012 and 2013 for a Swiss nongovernmental organisation, Centrale Sanitaire Suisse Romande.

The e-book, which also may be obtained by sending a request to the following address:, [corrected] is published under a Creative Commons Licence.


Creative Commons License"Perplexed About International Policy On GR, TK and TCEs? Here’s A Book" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


  1. bruno vitale says

    a larger version of our e-book (second edition, March 2014) can be obtained by writing to:

    specifying if either a .doc or a .pdf copy is required

    comments and criticisms will always be welcome!



  1. […] Authored by two scientists and published under a Creative Commons license, this unusual e-book aims to help “readers/fellow-travellers” to “find a useful and interesting exploratory path through … the huge and ill-defined genetic resources and traditional knowledge and folklore space” and “to find a satisfactory way out of it, at the end.” The authors note they do not imply that the only way to visit and explore these issues is theirs; but they “immodestly believe that the exploratory trip” they propose “will be more amusing and, being less serious, more intensely useful.” Following an introduction to the guide and the methodology used, chapters explore: the present situation, IPRs on one side, TK on the other side; the origins and motivations at the roots of WHO’s involvement in traditional medical knowledge (TMK); TMK in all of its glory and obscurities; loss of control on the TMK methodological paradigm; from TMK to GRTKF and perhaps GRTKFR; alternatives to IPRs?; and conclusions. The authors can be contacted at Download the e-book [doc] … Read an IP Watch article on the e-book … […]

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