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WIPO Session on genetic resources notes divergence

2nd March, 2012

The 20th session of WIPO’s Inter Governmental  Committee  on Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) which concluded recently witnessed wide ranging debate on the negotiating text. The IGC had tried to bring about a meeting point where genetic resources can be shared while ensuring IP protection for innovators as well as defensive protection for countries which possess them in in-situ conditions. The parties to the negotiations aim to bring a common text which will address all these concerns and also be in conformity with Convention on Biological Diversity, the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits arising from their Utilisation to Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Facilitator’s Consolidated Document released in this regard sets out the broad principles like denial of  exclusive rights to inventions that are not new, need to recognise that some holders of traditional knowledge would not want to document their rights and ensuring prior and informed consent of knowledge holders. It notes that there are divergent views from members on mandatory disclosure requirements on source of genetic resources.

Developing countries insisted that disclosure of origin of genetic resources and traditional knowledge should be made in patent applications, to prevent misappropriation and ensure sharing of benefits with countries where the resources originated. Japan and USA proposed a non-binding agreement which would call for aggregating data bases to enhance dissemination of knowledge. One of the grounds against mandatory disclosure is that information available was insufficient and making the requirement mandatory would delay, even deny patent applications.

Another point of discord was the definition of ‘intellectual property rights’. Developed countries proposed that ‘intellectual property rights’ should be changed to ‘patents’. This was opposed on the ground that it would restrict the protection accorded to genetic resources and as was originally intended the term should cover all types of rights like GIs also.The next session of the IGC is scheduled to be held from 16th to 20th April 2012.
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