Intellectual Property

Practical Workshop for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities on Intellectual Property and Traditional Knowledge
4-6 December 2013 (Geneva, Switzerland)

The programme of this workshop comprised a set of presentations and case-studies, and encouraged interactive engagement among 14 participants regarding intellectual property and traditional knowledge, and the concerns and aspirations of indigenous peoples and local communities. It was moderated by Professor Rebecca Tsosie (Arizona State University, USA), who is of Yaqui descent. Further information … Download the workshop’s programme [pdf] …

Patent-like claims on native potatoes spark protest by Peru’s indigenous farmers
ANDES, September 2013

Peruvian indigenous farmers have been angered by a government research agency, Peru’s National Agricultural Innovation Institute (INIA), that has claimed it owns intellectual property rights over more than fifty traditional varieties of potatoes bred in the Peruvian Andes. The potatoes were bred by indigenous farmers, who consider the claims to be an affront to their culture, knowledge and resources. In letters to the government, meetings, and a protest in the city of Cusco, the farmers have insisted that the claims be dropped entirely. Observers have been surprised by the move, in view of Peru’s relatively progressive legal protection for indigenous peoples’ rights. But the IP claims come under a new plant breeder’s rights law, which implements UPOV 1991. INIA argued that the IP claims are intended to recognize that the potatoes are Peruvian and to contribute to their legal protection. Indigenous farmers say that INIA’s IP claims are usurping native potatoes, and that the Institute has not responded to the farmers’ criticism that they, as creators and custodians of the native potatoes, are who rightfully should decide how the varieties are used. Download the communiqué [pdf] …

Farmers’ Groups Warn ARIPO about Implementing UPOV 91 in Africa
IP Watch, 30 October 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: A collective civil society group, Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, has raised concerns about a draft Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) plant variety protection law, which is based on the 1991 version of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). The draft law, which may come up for adoption in November, would criminalise farmers’ rights and undermine the seed systems in Africa, they said. The new framework would “make it illegal for farmers to engage in their age-old practice of freely using, sharing and selling seeds/propagating material; a practice that underpins 90% of the smallholder agriculture systems in sub-Saharan Africa.” Read the article … Visit the ARIPO website …

Farmers’ Rights at Heart of Plant Breeding IP Debate; UPOV Ponders New Members, Communication Strategy
IP Watch, 29 October 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) held a number of meetings last week, from 21-25 October, leading to the meeting of its Council, which is the UPOV governing body. Meetings included UPOV’s Administrative and Legal Committee, and its Consultative committee, both preparatory committees to the Council. New member requests were examined while civil society warned against a draft African legal framework on plant variety protection that they said could impact the dominant subsistence farming systems in some African states. In addition, during the week, a seminar was organised on “essentially derived” varieties (EDVs) of plants, showing the complexity of the definition of those varieties while civil society warned against rules that could endangers small farmers. The seminar explored the technical and legal aspects, while possible impacts on breeding and agriculture were presented by a number of different stakeholders including breeders’ association representatives, lawyers and civil society. Normita Gumasing Ignacio, executive director of South East Asia Regional Initiatives of Community Empowerment (SEARICE), said the dynamic informal seed system is threatened by the concept of EDVs. It limits the potential of farmers to adapt to changing environments, and threatens food security, she said, adding that preventing farmers to “freely generate EDVs from a protected variety is inequitable and unwise.” Ignacio also pointed out that “all of formal breeders’ breeding materials are derived to some extent from a farmers’ variety.” Read the article … Visit the seminar’s webpage, including links to documents and presentations …

Intellectual Property, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions/Folklore: A Guide for Countries in Transition
WIPO, 2013

This Guide intends to provide information for policy-makers, heads of intellectual property offices, and other decision-makers in countries in transition on issues they need to consider before putting a legal framework on traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions in place, if they decide to do so. It aims to raise awareness of existing methods for the legal protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions, as well as to improve understanding of the interrelations, at international, regional and national levels, between the intellectual property system, on the one hand, and traditional knowledge/traditional cultural expressions and their implications for economic, social, cultural and technical development, on the other. Read the Guide …

Short Film on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge
Arts Law Center of Australia, 2013

Produced with support from the WIPO Secretariat and the Government of Australia, this short video includes information on WIPO and the protection of traditional knowledge. The video covers various issues of interest for indigenous artists in Australia in relation to intellectual property. Access the video …

Decision: Matters Concerning the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore
23 September – 2 October 2013 (Geneva, Switzerland)

The General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) renewed the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) for the 2014-2015 biennium, and agreed on a schedule of sessions and a work programme for 2014. Under its renewed mandate, the IGC will continue to expedite its work with the objective of reaching agreement on a text(s) of an international legal instrument(s), which will ensure the effective protection of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. The IGC is requested to submit the text(s) of the international legal instrument(s) to the 2014 General Assembly which will, with a view to finalizing the text(s) within the biennium, take stock of and consider the text(s), progress made and decide on convening a Diplomatic Conference. The General Assembly took note of the possibility for members of the IGC to request studies or provide examples to inform its work, noting, however, that such examples and studies were not to delay progress or establish any preconditions to the negotiations.

The IGC is expected to meet in February, April and July 2014. IGC 26, in February 2014, will be a five-day session on genetic resources, and is expected to be preceded by an Ambassadorial/Senior Capital-Based Officials meeting to share views on key policy issues relating to the negotiations to further inform and guide the process. IGC 27, in April 2014, will be a ten-day session focusing on traditional knowledge and then traditional cultural expressions. IGC 28, in July 2014, will be a three-day cross-cutting session, addressing all three themes, which will take stock of progress made and make a recommendation to the General Assembly in September 2014.

Despite agreement on the IGC mandate and other issues including the convening of a diplomatic conference for the adoption of a revised Lisbon Agreement on appellations of origin and geographical indications in 2015, Member States were unable to agree on WIPO’s programme and budget, including the establishment of new external offices, and some other issues. An extraordinary meeting is expected to convene in December 2013, to conclude outstanding items before the end of the current biennium.

Download the decision on the IGC mandate [pdf] … Read WIPO’s press release on the Assemblies … Read an IP Watch article of 3 October 2013 …

The Guide for the Perplexed Entering the Maze of Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore
Anne Gut and Bruno Vitale, September 2013

Authored by two scientists and published under a Creative Commons license, this unusual e-book aims to help “readers/fellow-travellers” to “find a useful and interesting exploratory path through … the huge and ill-defined genetic resources and traditional knowledge and folklore space” and “to find a satisfactory way out of it, at the end.” The authors note they do not imply that the only way to visit and explore these issues is theirs; but they “immodestly believe that the exploratory trip” they propose “will be more amusing and, being less serious, more intensely useful.” Following an introduction to the guide and the methodology used, chapters explore: the present situation, IPRs on one side, TK on the other side; the origins and motivations at the roots of WHO’s involvement in traditional medical knowledge (TMK); TMK in all of its glory and obscurities; loss of control on the TMK methodological paradigm; from TMK to GRTKF and perhaps GRTKFR; alternatives to IPRs?; and conclusions. The authors can be contacted at Download the e-book [doc] … Read an IP Watch article on the e-book …

WIPO Assembly Approves New Work Mandate on GR, TK Protection
IP Watch, 30 September 2013

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The World Intellectual Property Organization General Assembly renewed the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). The full membership approved a deal reached on the renewal of the mandate and details of the IGC work programme in an informal session on 27 September. According to the document adopted by the Assembly, the WIPO IGC should report to next year’s General Assembly so that it can take stock of progress made in 2014 and decide on convening a diplomatic conference. It is still unclear whether there will be one instrument for all subjects or three separate ones. Whether it will be considered legally binding or not also remains in question. Member States’ statements reaffirmed their positions and their divergences. Read the article …

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