[Ip-health] Update on patents on life debates at WIPO IGC 20

Thirukumaran Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Sat Feb 18 04:35:27 PST 2012

UPDATE: WIPO intergovernmental committee debates patents on life in relation to IP and genetic resources


18 January 2012

Saturday's session witnessed many delegates to WIPO's 20th session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC/GRTKF) attired in national dress with the Chair, Ambassador Wayne McCook (Jamaica), sporting an athletic jersey, Dominic Keating (Director, Intellectual Property Attaché Program, United States Patent and Trademark Office) wearing a baseball cap (turned backwards) and and your blogger sporting a Sri Lankan cricket jersey (2011 Cricket World Cup training jersey). The casual sartorial garb encouraged by the Chair should not be perceived as let up in the intensity of WIPO negotiations on an international legal instrument for the protection of genetic resources.

The focus of Saturday's discussion was the text on "options for implementation of objectives and principles" which included a section on "Scope of Protection" of an international legal instrument.

The first part of this section, Option 1(a) included language on a mandatory disclosure requirement (including country of origin and source of genetic resources) and a provision on prior informed consent. Option 1 was generally the preferred text of developing country demandeurs of an international legal instrument for the protection of genetic resources.

Option 1(d) states:

"No intellectual property rights shall be granted to genetic resources that naturally occur in situ and ex situ."
and Option 1(e) states:

That the national intellectual property offices shall:
(i) Consider all relevant written and oral information relating to genetic resources, their derivatives and associated traditional knowledge, regardless of the language, from all countries when conducting search and examination for determining the eligibility criteria for granting of intellectual property rights.

(ii) Develop appropriate and adequate guidelines for the purpose of conducting search and examination of intellectual property applications relating to genetic resource[sic], their derivatives and associated derivatives and associated traditional knowledge considering existing and additional information provided by the applicants, as well as accessible to the examiners.

Contracting Parties shall appoint national intellectual property offices as a checkpoint for disclosure of the country of origin and source of genetic resources, their derivatives and associated traditional knowledge and for their monitoring.

To undergird their text in the objectives and principles section (Option 2 of Objective 2) to ensure no patents on life and life forms are granted for genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, Bolivia requested the insertion of a new romanito (iii) under Option 1 (e):

Ensure that IP offices shall not grant patents on life forms, or parts thereof in the form of biological or genetic resources as they are found in nature, that are only isolated or characterized as such, as well as their derivatives and associated traditional knowledge.
This Bolivian text was supported by Venezuela, the African Group and Sri Lanka.

In response to Bolivia, the United States proposed the following alternative language:

Enhance the availability of patent protection for life forms and new uses for known substances in order to create benefits and support benefit sharing from the use of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

As the plenary closed before lunch, only two sections remained to be discussed in the afternoon session, 1) Sanctions, Remedies and Exercise of Rights and 2) Technical Assistance Cooperation and Capacity Building. During the morning session, Ambassador McCook likened the process of IGC 20 to sausage making. From this vantage point, an international legal instrument for the protection of genetic resources seems like a long slog ahead.


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

More information about the Ip-health mailing list