This week in review … Talks continue on TRIPS amendment to protect biodiversity and TK

11 11 2008

Push Continues For TRIPS Biodiversity Amendment, Geographical Indications Extension
IP Watch, 31 October 2008

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND: The push to amend the World Trade Organization agreement on intellectual property rights has not receded, as made clear this week by proponents of wider protection for geographical indications and using the patent system to safeguard biodiversity and traditional knowledge. But opponents remain steadfast. The Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council, the TRIPS agreement’s governing body, met on 29 October, followed by a 30 October TRIPS special session, mandated to negotiate a register for geographical indications (GIs), products associated with a particular place and characteristics. Talks at the special session turned into a lengthy discussion over whether the mandated register negotiations could progress without simultaneous movement on two other intellectual property issues linked to the GI register by a majority of member states. The two issues are: the possible extension of high-level protection currently enjoyed by GIs on wines and spirits (such as Bordeaux wine) to other products (such as Parma ham), and a possible amending of the TRIPS agreement to require disclosure of origin of genetic resources in patent applications. The statements by GI and CBD proponents this week indicate that they still consider the issues key to broader success with the Doha negotiations. Amendments are necessary, argued an intervention by India on 29 October, to remedy the “inadequacy in the TRIPS agreement to combat biopiracy and misappropriation of genetic resources and TK.” The country further expressed “disappointment at the lack of progress on this issue despite overwhelming support and technical work.” Over half of WTO member states – some 80 countries – support the CBD amendment. Many of these states are developing countries, which India says makes the issue particularly pertinent as Doha is the development round of negotiations. During the session, Sri Lanka has become an official cosponsor of a 2006 document calling for a TRIPS amendment to better protect biodiversity and TK. The document calls for mandatory disclosure of origin on genetic resources or TK in the subject matter of a patent application, and also calls for evidence that the prior informed consent of communities owning those resources was obtained, and that they received equitable benefits for sharing the resources. Read the article …

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