WIPO Treaty Bolsters Protection for Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge

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Geneva The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has adopted a new treaty focused on the protection of genetic resources (GRs) and associated traditional knowledge (ATK), marking a significant victory for countries in the Global South and particularly for India, recognized as a mega biodiversity hotspot.

For the first time, the rich systems of knowledge and wisdom that have sustained economies, societies, and cultures for centuries are formally integrated into the global intellectual property (IP) framework. This treaty represents a historic recognition of the intrinsic link between local communities, and their genetic resources and traditional knowledge within the global IP community.

India, a key advocate and provider of traditional knowledge and a repository of biodiversity, has played a pivotal role in championing this treaty. The agreement not only aims to safeguard and protect biodiversity but also seeks to enhance transparency in the patent system and bolster innovation. By evolving the IP system to be more inclusive, the treaty responds to the diverse needs of all countries and their communities, a testament to India’s global leadership in this monumental effort.

Adopted with consensus among more than 150 countries after two decades of negotiations, the treaty signifies a significant triumph for the Global South. This region, united in its support for the establishment of such an instrument, has emphasized its necessity for sustainable and equitable development, demonstrating the strength of collective action.

The treaty will mandate contracting parties to implement mandatory disclosure requirements upon ratification and entry into force. Patent applicants will be obliged to disclose the country of origin or source of genetic resources when their inventions are based on these resources or associated traditional knowledge. This provision offers enhanced protection to Indian genetic resources and traditional knowledge, which, despite being protected domestically, are vulnerable to misappropriation in countries lacking such disclosure obligations.

Currently, only 35 countries have some form of disclosure obligations, most of which are non-mandatory and lack effective enforcement mechanisms. The new treaty will compel all contracting parties, including developed nations, to amend their legal frameworks to enforce disclosure of origin obligations on patent applicants. This creates an unprecedented global standard, providing a robust framework for protecting genetic resources and traditional knowledge from provider countries.

The adoption of this treaty marks the beginning of a journey toward collective growth and sustainable development, a cause that India has championed for centuries. This treaty paves the way for a more balanced and inclusive approach to innovation and intellectual property by bridging conflicting paradigms within the IP system and enhancing biodiversity protection.

As the global community embraces this new framework, it sets a promising precedent for the future of international cooperation in protecting and valuing the world’s rich biodiversity and traditional knowledge systems. This treaty holds the potential to safeguard these invaluable resources, instilling hope for their preservation and sustainable use.

IAT News Service
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