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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Traditional knowledge and genetic resources - developing IPRs

The development of traditional knowledge (TK) and genetic resources (GR) into fully fledged IP is pretty much stalled at a global level. WIPO was at the forefront of pushing this forward, but has failed to reach any agreement on how to protect these areas, especially how to deal with conflicts with trademarks copyright and patents which sometimes commercially monopolise these areas.

At a meeting in Bali this week 19 developing nations who all share concerns that their traditional knowledge and genetic resources are not adequately protected by the global IP system, got together to work out an alternative proposal, which they intend to take back to WIPO.

Indonesia led the meeting, unsatisfied with stalemate at WIPO. Developing countries worry that WIPO is too influenced by IPR holders from US, Europe and Japan.  

The issues they are working on are false claims to TK and GR rights, abuse of TK and GR, rights of access to TK and GR, along with benefit sharing mechanisms. All of these areas pit business seeking to commercialise areas of TK and GR, often for the public good (e.g. to create medicines), against governments of countries where they are found, and the local communities who utilize them.

One example of successful cooperation is a company called Sido Muncul which worked with the local Jamu (traditional Indonesian medicines, industry to develop modern medicines from the herbs planted in certain areas of central Java, long know for their health properties. After clinical testing the company was then able to teach farmers how best to grow the herbs, in which soil, then they began purchasing the ingredients from them. Both sides win.

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