December 2007

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.

Read the full article at IP Watch…
Visit the WIPO Meeting Page…

Province crafts new law to protect traditional arts, medicine
ChinaView – 25 December 2007

GUIYANG, CHINA: Chinese law experts are turning to the rules of intellectual property (IP) protection to safeguard the value of the country’s crafts, folk medicine, and even plant genes against what they say is foreign exploitation. The Guizhou Provincial Regulation on Traditional Knowledge Protection, the first government-level statute, will help the owners of folk arts, traditional knowledge and genetic materials to safeguard their rights, said Yao Xin, an official with the Rule, Regulation and Law Department under the State Intellectual Property Office. Read the article…

Ancient Tsunami Lore Could Save Lives – 24 December 2007

PORT MORESBY, PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Three years after the devastating tsunami that destroyed coastal communities around the Indian Ocean, the exact death toll remains uncertain. But survivors’ tales of similarly massive waves sweeping in from the ocean are passed down by elders in certain communities and may be enough to save lives in the event of another disaster like the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, a researcher says. The tsunami that struck the coasts of Thailand, India and Indonesia on December 26, 2004 caused very high mortality in the affected regions, with anywhere from 10 to 90 percent of local populations being killed. But a similarly intense tsunami that struck northern Papua New Guinea in 1930 caused a fraction of the deaths compared to the 2004 disaster, with only 0.1 percent to 1 percent of the coastal population being killed. The key to this lower death toll were stories of tsunamis that had been passed down across the generations to the area residents, said tsunami researcher Simon Day, a visiting professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who has been researching evidence of ancient tsunamis in Papua New Guinea and presented his findings at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Read the article…

Traditional knowledge is finding its place
Petroleum News – 23 December 2007

ALASKA, USA: The knowledge of the Native people of the North Slope is playing an increasingly important role in energy decision making. Once viewed by practitioners of Western science as a belief system rather than a body of knowledge, the millennia old wisdom of the traditional Inupiat people of northern Alaska has become increasingly incorporated into the planning and decision making associated with oil and gas projects. “The North Slope Inupiat have been in the forefront in asserting the critical value of traditional knowledge in industry decisions,” Joan Kluwe of URS Corp. told an audience at the Arctic Energy Summit Technical Conference in Anchorage in October.
Read the article…

Saving Plants that Save Lives
Environmental News Network – 19 December 2007

BERLIN, GERMANY: Poor or non-existent collection controls are threatening the survival of many of the plant species used in traditional and modern medicines. On some estimates, 15,000 of the 50,000 — 70,000 plant species used for medicinal purposes and mostly collected from the wild may be threatened, many as a direct result of unsustainable collection practices. Three years of collaboration have produced the new International Standard for Sustainable Wild Collection of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ISSC-MAP), by the IUCN-SSC Medicinal Plant Specialist Group, TRAFFIC the wildlife monitoring network, WWF Germany and the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), with support from IUCN Canada. Read the article…

The TK Bulletin’s Upcoming Meetings page has been updated. Meetings to watch out for over the next few months include:

Please feel free to suggest meetings for inclusion in the list by email to

Forgotten Islands raise their voice at UN Climate Change talks in Indonesia
Tonga Now – 17 December 2007

BALI, INDONESIA: ‘SIDS’ and ‘AOSIS’, the two agitating words heard repeatedly 10 years ago in one of Japan’s large cities Kyoto, appear to have evaporated in the tropical heat of the Indonesian island Bali. SIDS stands for Small Island Developing States, numbering 38, and AOSIS for the Alliance of Small Independent States with a membership of 43 states and observers. Pacific Island governments have highlighted a number of priorities which include improving information on the impact of climate change on traditional knowledge. They are also mainstreaming climate change into national development planning and budgetary processes. Given their limited technical and financial capacity, they are looking to external assistance, particularly from the developed countries. Mitigating the impact of climate change, especially on vulnerable economies, funds for adaptation and technology transfer are the crucial issues to which the post-Kyoto regime will have to devote its attention 2012 onwards. Read the article…

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