Building Community Capacity: A Roundtable on Practical Initiatives on Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions, Traditional Knowledge and Genetic Resources
World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)
10 December – 12 December 2007 (Geneva, Switzerland)
Excerpted from IP Watch
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: How best to protect traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources against misappropriation and misuse was the main theme of a recent community consultation in the form of a roundtable organised by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The WIPO event on 10-12 December came in response to “the strong level of interest expressed by many national authorities and community representatives in sharing experience and developing dialogue and cooperation on practical initiatives to build capacity for appropriate protection.” The event was announced two weeks before it took place.
WIPO said it aims to strengthen the practical capacity of holders of traditional knowledge (TK), traditional cultural expressions (TCEs, or folklore) and genetic resources (GR). It is preparing, among other things, a TK documentation toolkit, guidelines and a database for GR, and a creative heritage project. The informal roundtable was organised around four workshops (creative heritage, TK and GR in the patent system, TK toolkit, and “customary law”) where participants were invited to share views and experiences. Work was then reported to all participants for discussion.
Discussion points raised included:
- Creative Heritage: Could be addressed at the institutional and community level. The misappropriation of TK and TCEs is worsened by tourism, creating a dilemma for communities as it provides benefits while at the same time acting as an agent of misappropriation (e.g. when tourists take photographs or film indigenous communities).
- TK and GR in the patent system: Each country has a different level of examination and thus the database structure should be put together in a standardised and prescribed language, taking into consideration local needs and focusing on the goals reflected in the recently adopted WIPO Development Agenda. A systematic use of metadata could ease the work of patent examiners. Many participants were concerned about protection of the database, which they said should not enter the public domain, but instead should be reserved for the sole use of patent examiners at the risk of betraying the trust of contributors. Questions were raised about how a database could
protect the rights of TK holders in cases such as Chinese traditional medicine that uses very complex plant preparations with over 20 ingredients, where it is difficult to determine novelty in a patent application.
- TK Toolkit: The toolkit workshop synthesised the benefit and danger of documentation. The issue of confidentiality in particular was considered in the context of questions about whose interest lies behind documentation, who is funding it and what kind of problem would arise if the databases were linked to funders. It is important to ensure that the TK databases are, in the main, established and maintained by communities, and that ownership of management structure should, where possible, be with local communities.
WIPO has been working on different initiatives to address the issue of misappropriation of TK, TCEs and GR for the last five years, said WIPO’s Antony Taubman. “WIPO wants to take it to the operational level,” he said, emphasising the organisation’s wish to produce non-binding guidelines meant to reflect best practices. The first phase of the guidelines, which currently are being written, is to reach out and solicit experiences and opinions. The first draft is expected to be released early next year.