Brazilian tribe
Joa Souza / Shutterstock.com
28 May 2024EuropeMarisa Woutersen

WIPO adopts first-of-its-kind treaty on genetic resources and traditional knowledge

WIPO member states approve treaty addressing IP issues related to genetic resources and traditional knowledge | Agreement marks new era for IP rights and Indigenous Peoples, introducing international legal requirements for patent applicants.

After decades of negotiations, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) member states have approved a treaty addressing IP issues related to genetic resources and traditional knowledge, ushering in a new era for IP rights and Indigenous Peoples.

The agreement, cemented on May 24, is the first WIPO treaty to address the intersection of IP, genetic resources, and traditional knowledge, including provisions for Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

Ambassador Guilherme de Aguiar Patriota, president of the Diplomatic Conference and Brazil’s permanent representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO), officially announced the consensus approval of the WIPO Treaty on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge.

The negotiations and consensus took place at the Diplomatic Conference on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge in Geneva.

Upon ratification by 15 contracting parties, the treaty will introduce a new international legal requirement for patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge used in their inventions.

It aims to enhance the efficacy, transparency, and quality of the patent system concerning genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, while also preventing patents being granted for inventions that lack novelty or inventiveness in these areas.

Key provisions

The new treaty outlines that when a patent application is based on genetic resources, the applicant must disclose the country of origin or source of those resources.

Additionally, if the invention involves traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, the applicant must identify the Indigenous Peoples or local community who provided that knowledge.

Genetic resources are not directly protectable as IP; however, inventions developed using these resources can be protected.

These include microorganisms, plant varieties, animal breeds, genetic sequences, nucleotide and amino acid sequence information, traits, molecular events, plasmids, and vectors.

Some genetic resources are linked with traditional knowledge through their use and conservation by Indigenous Peoples as well as local communities.

Traditional knowledge includes know-how, practices, skills, and innovations and can be found in a wide variety of contexts, including: agricultural, scientific, technical, ecological and medicinal knowledge as well as biodiversity-related knowledge.

This knowledge can be used in scientific research and can contribute to the development of a protected invention.

A long-awaited milestone

Negotiations for the treaty began in 2001, following a 1999 proposal by Colombia, and have included Indigenous Peoples and local communities throughout the process.

Daren Tang, WIPO director general, praised the negotiators’ efforts. “Today we made history in many ways,” he said.

“This is not just the first new WIPO Treaty in over a decade but also the first one that deals with genetic resources and traditional knowledge held by Indigenous Peoples as well as local communities.”

The treaty demonstrates how the IP system can continue to “incentivise innovation” in a more inclusive way, according to Tang.

“The agreement by consensus is not just the culmination of a 25-year negotiating journey, but also a strong signal that multilateralism is alive and well at WIPO,” Tang concluded.

Patriota said the treaty “constitutes the best possible compromise and a carefully calibrated solution, which seeks to bridge and to balance a variety of interests, some very passionately held and assiduously expressed and defended over the course of decades”.

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at atapping@newtonmedia.co.uk