Delegates at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva spent this week discussing (for the 34th time) how to provide adequate intellectual property protection for the ‘traditional knowledge’ that is typically part of the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples.
This week’s talks were split into two main areas: Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs) and the committee’s mandate. The IGC (WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore) is not a standing committee (unlike the SCCR) and renews its mandate every two years by recommending as such to the WIPO General Assemblies.
While the delegates clearly have an appetite to continue seeking a way to protect TCEs, how the committee will do so is less clear.
Currently they are focused on a ‘text-based’ discussion, which entails a lot of talk about parentheses, italics, sub-clauses and definitions. There is little doubt that this approach will continue, but some stakeholders have been calling for a more evidence-based tack supported up by hard data and real-world studies to lend the argument credence.
What is plain, however, is that many delegates present are mere diplomats and not experts on the subject matter. Almost certainly the dialogue would be richer and more productive if it were led by qualified legal mavens. In other committees at WIPO this ‘competence deficit’ has been addressed by the formation of experts groups that make recommendations to the plenary. Perhaps it’s time the IGC did likewise.
Once WIPO releases the IGC34 summary the IPA will provide a further update.