Wednesday, 15 February 2012

WIPO – 20th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore

RSA IP expat Andre Myburgh, now based in Switzerland at the firm of Lenz Caemmerer, is attending WIPO’s Session on IP and Genetic Resources where an African Group is prominent. His report back Afro-IP:

This week sees the start of the latest round of discussions in WIPO around intellectual property and genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore in Geneva, with an eight day meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee devoted to genetic resources.  These discussions follow the coming into force of the Nagoya Protocol on genetic resources in the past year.  The Nagoya Protocol is a treaty under the Convention on Biological Diversity and is focussed on the conditions for access to genetic resources  The WIPO discussions deal with the intellectual property law aspects of this access.

Documents submitted in advance of the meeting indicate a divergence of views as to what is the best way to protect access to genetic resources controlled and used by indigenous communities, amongst others by researchers and inventors.  The European Union supports a mandatory requirement for patent applications to disclose the country of origin or source of genetic resources, as well as possibly a disclosure of associated traditional knowledge.  The African Group, which includes South Africa, goes further and proposes, in addition to disclosure, that a patent applicant for an invention where traditional knowledge is involved must first have obtained the prior informed consent and a benefit sharing agreement from the community holding the traditional knowledge as conditions for the issue of the patent.  South Africa already has such legislation, in the form of the bioprospecting provisions of the Biodiversity Act, 2004, and the Patents Act, 1978, as amended in 2005.

Tom Suchanandan of the South African Department of Science and Technology [ed- and member of the Afro-IP linkedin Group] has been appointed as one of the meeting’s facilitators to guide the delegates toward producing a single text for submission to WIPO’s General Assembly.

The session on intellectual property and genetic resources will be followed by further sessions on traditional knowledge in April and traditional expressions of culture and folklore in July, with a view to putting a text-based proposal to the General Assembly in October, which is hoped to be followed by the calling of a diplomatic conference."

 2012 important dates for  the IGC are listed here according to the WIPO website.

Thank you for the update, Andre!

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