WIPO IGC 23 Advances on Text on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources

11 February 2013: Convened from 4-8 February 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland, the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) further streamlined the draft text of an international legal instrument on intellectual property and genetic resources, which will be submitted to the WIPO General Assembly, to be held from 23 September - 2 October 2013. However, several brackets remain indicating delegates' divergent opinions on key issues under negotiation.

The approximately ten-page streamlined text covers issues including: definition of main terms; policy objectives; subject matter of protection; beneficiaries; the scope of the instrument; sanctions and remedies; and international cooperation. The text bears a large number of brackets, indicating divergent opinions on issues such as mandatory disclosure of origin versus defensive protection, derivatives of genetic resources, the scope of the instrument, and the relationship with other international agreements, particularly the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing (ABS) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGR).

Four new documents were submitted shortly before or during the session: an information document from Norway on the disclosure requirement in Norwegian law; a joint recommendation on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, submitted by Canada, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Korea and the US; a proposal for a terms of reference for a study by the WIPO Secretariat on measures related to the avoidance of the erroneous grant of patents and compliance within existing ABS systems, submitted by Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the US; and a joint recommendation on the use of databases for the defensive protection of genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, submitted by Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the US.

The session began with an indigenous panel, which heard from UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples James Anaya, who called for strengthened participation of indigenous peoples in the process and a focus on the protection of their traditional knowledge. In the session, WIPO raised alarm on the almost thorough depletion of the Voluntary Fund allowing for indigenous peoples' participation. Anaya also provided a historical background outlining how conventional concepts of state sovereignty and property rights were detrimental to indigenous peoples, and how recent developments in decision-making at the international level have led to new understandings of these concepts, with special relevance for the rights of indigenous peoples to genetic resources and traditional knowledge.

In accordance with its mandate, the IGC conducts text-based negotiations with the objective of reaching agreement on a text(s) of an international legal instrument(s) that will ensure the effective protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. The WIPO General Assembly will take stock of progress made and decide on convening a Diplomatic Conference. According to the 2013 work programme, the next IGC session, scheduled 22-26 April 2013, will focus on traditional knowledge, while IGC 25, to be held from 15-24 July 2013, will address traditional cultural expressions. In addition, the final session will further review and take stock of all the text(s) of the international legal instrument(s), and make a recommendation to the WIPO General Assembly. [WIPO IGC 23 Update][IGC 23 Decisions][IGC 23 Documents][IGC Mandate][IGC 2013 Schedule][Statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples][IISD RS Sources]