Protecting genetic resources was a heated topic of discussion during the 26th session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) in Geneva, Switzerland last week, as member countries debated the ways in which protecting the intellectual property of genetic resources came into focus. Intellectual Property Watch noted that officials and ambassadors failed to cohesively agree on a future policy directive, but that technical experts drafted a text to serve as a baseline for potential future policy directives.

The document itself is different from the document created in 2013 at the same collective, as this edition focuses more on misappropriation. Biopiracy or bioprospecting is the term used to refer to the commercialization of biologically-based resources — including knowledge gained from the characteristics of plants and animals — that is then used for profit (i.e. medicines). Biopiracy has more of a human-based angle, and the text drafted last week addresses such issues by aiming for the prevention of misappropriation of genetic resources and “associated traditional knowledge” through the IP Rights system. 

The text describes the ways in which this prevention system should be designed including ensuring transparency in the IP system, ensuring that IP offices have the proper information, and encouraging international compliance with and “mutual supportiveness with international agreements.”  

IP Watch quotes Ian Goss’s presentation regarding the new draft for policy as focusing more “on preventing the misappropriation of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. The new paragraph contains ingredients from the two previous options, but giving a high order to misappropriation as a core policy issue.”

While the actual set-in-stone policy will likely be an ongoing process for the IGC, especially as new methods in science and technology aggravate the possibility of misappropriation, the latest drafted text will urge such international policymaking along.


Further reading:

New WIPO program and budget in the works for 2014-2015

Supreme Court’s decision in Myriad sends shockwaves through the biotech industry

Supreme Court hears gene patentability arguments