WIPO IGC Focuses on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources

29 February 2012: The 20th session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) prepared and agreed to transmit a single, consolidated document on intellectual property and genetic resources to the next session of the WIPO General Assembly, scheduled to take place in October 2012.

The session took place from 14-22 February 2012, in Geneva, Switzerland. Although deliberations were successful in producing a consolidated negotiating document, disagreements persisted on a mandatory disclosure requirement, as well as on the scope of protection under an instrument on genetic resources. Developed countries proposed reference to “patents” rather than intellectual property rights in general, a position which was opposed by developing countries.

During the meeting, Canada, Japan, Norway, the Republic of Korea and the US submitted a new proposal, namely a “Joint Recommendation on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge,” which proposes the creation of databases regarding genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge instead of a mandatory disclosure requirement. If adopted, the recommendation would serve as a non-binding instrument, and was met with resistance by many developing countries supporting adoption of a legally binding instrument.

The IGC also discussed participation of observers, particularly representatives of indigenous and local communities. It agreed that observers could, at the Chair's discretion and in accordance with the Committee's Rules of Procedure, be included in any “Friends of Chair” groups and/or act as co-chairs of working and drafting groups. It also supported the organization of an indigenous expert workshop preceding an upcoming session of the Committee; strongly encouraged Member States to organize regional and national consultations involving representatives of indigenous and local communities; supported the development or improvement of various awareness-raising and communications tools by the WIPO Secretariat; and welcomed the continued cooperation of the WIPO Secretariat with relevant UN and other bodies. The Committee requested further information from the WIPO Secretariat on proposed changes to the accreditation and funding procedures for representatives of indigenous and local communities, and proposed revisions to the format of Indigenous Panels that precede each session of the Committee. It should be noted that a number of indigenous representatives left the session on 21 February, citing their concerns regarding their reduced participation. They reconsidered their decision after meeting informally with the Chair, and rejoined the meeting on the following day. [WIPO IGC-20 Website] [WIPO IGC-20 Update] [WIPO IGC-20 Decisions] [IISD RS Sources]