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WIPO Roundtable on IP & Traditional Knowledge. Geneva, November 1-2, 1999. Protection of Traditional Knowledge: A Global IP Issue. Presenter: Richard Owens, Director Global Intellectual Property Issues Division. Overview of the GIPID Program: 1998-2001.

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WIPO Roundtable on IP &Traditional Knowledge

Geneva, November 1-2, 1999

Protection of Traditional Knowledge: A Global IP Issue

Presenter: Richard Owens, Director Global Intellectual Property Issues Division

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Overview of the GIPID Program: 1998-2001

  • IPR's for New Beneficiaries: the Protection of Traditional Knowledge, Innovations & Creativity

  • Biodiversity & Biotechnology

  • Protection of Expressions of Folklore

  • Intellectual Property & Development

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Traditional Knowledge and Intellectual Property

What is Traditional Knowledge (TK) ?

Why is Protection of TK Important ?

Customary Protection of TK

Problems Confronting TK Holders

Intellectual Property and TK - WIPO’s Response

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What is Traditional Knowledge?

Medicinal, Agricultural

& Ecological Knowledge

Music & Dance,

Stories & Poetry



Spiritual Expression

Transmitted orally across generations

Collective responsibility & ownership


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TK: A Multi-Faceted Concept

Educationhistory, traditions, ethics

Cultural Identity


Spiritual & Religious Beliefs

Practical Knowledge

Oral Tradition

Aesthetics (Art,Entertainment)

Emphasis on Community

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Protecting TK: What are the Benefits

Provides opportunities for sharing benefits of TK

Provides rights for TK holders

Preserves knowledge base of communities

Increases opportunities for socio-economic development

Creates added value for humankind

Enables participation in global markets

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Customary Protection of TK

  • Informal regimes govern the use & transmission of TK at community level through rules, rights & obligations

  • Customary law results from repeated practices

  • Monitored & enforced by elders, spiritual and religious leaders

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IP Protection of TK

IP Protection

Documentation & preservationof TK

Promote & disseminate creativity & innovation

Traditional Knowledge is contemporary: a continuing response by individuals and communities to challenges posed by their environment

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The Challenge …..

IP mechanisms do not cover non- systematic, undocumented knowledge

Customary law is not applicable outside the community

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Problems Confronting TK Holders

  • Rejection of tradition by new generation and encroachment of modern lifestyles

  • Dilution of traditional knowledge and practices through acculturation and diffusion

  • “Modern” science may deem traditional knowledge inferior

  • Commercial exploitation by “others”, e.g. bioprospecting, use of indigenous designs

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…. in search of a model

Need to find common ground


IP system

A global assessment of needs & expectations of TK holders

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WIPO’s Response

  • Roundtable on IP & indigenous peoples (1998)

  • 9 FFMs on TK, innovations & creativity

  • Panel discussion on IP & human rights (1998)

  • 4 regional consultations on protection of folklore

  • Roundtable on IP and TK (1999)

  • Participation in international processes: CBD, FAO, UNESCO, etc.

  • Cooperation with IGOs & NGOs

  • Integration into WIPO’s development for cooperation activities

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WIPO Fact-Finding Missions

North America

Arab Countries

Caribbean Countries

Central America

South Asia

South Pacific

South America

Southern & Eastern Africa

West Africa

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9 Fact Finding Missions




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TK systems are frameworks for continuing creativity & innovation

TK is a constantly renewed source of wealth

All branches of IP law are relevant to TK

WIPO FFM Findings

Common to all countries

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Regional Consultations: Protection of Expressions of Folklore

Africa: March ‘99

Asia-Pacific:April ‘99

Arab Region:May ‘99

LAC:June ‘99

Recommendations: expansion of WIPO workplan (nat’l, regional & int’l activities):

A) Legal/Technical assistance

B) Training in folklore documentation

C) Financial support for nat’l & regional institutions

D) Work toward effective international regime to protect expressions of folklore

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Expanding relevance of the FolkloreIP System to TK Holders

Increasing cultural &

economic value of TK

Growing relevance of IPRs



Global Information Society

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… future work Folklore



2000-2001 PROGRAM:a) case studies on use of IP system to protect TKb) study on customary law governing TK in relation to formal IP systemsc) information exchange on IP implications of TK documentationd) increased training and awareness-raising worldwide for TK stakeholders

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WIPO Roundtable on IP & FolkloreTraditional Knowledge

Geneva, November 1-2, 1999

Protection of Traditional Knowledge: A Global IP Issue

Presenter: Richard Owens, Director Global Intellectual Property Issues Division