World Intellectual Property Organization
Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional
Knowledge, and Folklore
As the title suggests, this topic explores issues surrounding, well, genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore and how they relate to intellectual property rights.
WIPO has actually been involved with some of these issues since 1979, but certain topics such as the genetic resource issue are looming larger with today's possibility of sequencing large amounts of DNA.
As developing nations worry about the growing IP chasm, they, along with
indigenous peoples, worry about the potential of becoming an IP mining
For example, according to an article by the International Development
Research Center [http://www.idrc.ca]
in Canada, there are some 35,000 species of plants in developing nations
believed to have some medicinal value. The concern is that developing
nations are being subjected to a new wave of colonialism by pharmaceutical
corporations. The same article claims that in the early 1990's plant resources
extracted from developing nations were alone worth billion of dollars
to pharmaceutical companies.
Traditional Knowledge and Folklore
Just as genetic resource issues refer to extraction of biological material and knowledge from developing nations, traditional knowledge and folklore issues refer to the extraction of intellectual and cultural resources from developing nations.
Traditional knowledge and folklore are seen as vital to the cultural identity of indigenous peoples. For this reason, indigenous peoples often view profiting from traditional knowledge to be exploitive.
Protecting traditional knowledge is less clear than protecting established
intellectual property. As you know, copyrights on artistic or creative
works generally extend 50 years past the death of the creator. What about
works that may exist only in an oral tradition that have been passed down
and evolving for much longer than 50 years. Who gets credit?