'Traditional Knowledge' and Biodiversity

Original Publication Date: 
6 June, 2006
Geneva - The United States yesterday sharply opposed the idea of commencing text-based negotiations on disclosing the origin of biological resources and 'traditional knowledge' in patent applications (WTD, 5/26/06).

Brazil, India, Thailand, Colombia, Peru, Tanzania, China and Cuba are pressing for 'appropriate action' through text-based negotiations before the end of July as mandated in last year's Hong Kong ministerial declaration. They are seeking 'compatibility' and 'coherence' between the WTO's Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Proponents want WTO members to provide in their patent regimes the requirement for patent applicants to disclose the country-of-origin of biological resources or traditional knowledge used in inventions.

The issue of biological diversity and 'traditional knowledge' is one of the politically sensitive issues of the Doha implementation agenda. Developing countries insist that the Doha mandate clearly provides for text-based negotiations after extensive discussion and fact finding.

Japan and South Korea defended the US position, saying that existing differences on this issue are yet to be resolved. The European Union expressed general support for the proponents, but noted that their proposal goes beyond what is anticipated in the World Intellectual Property Organization.

WTO Deputy Director General Rufus Yerxa is assisting as mediator in the discussions.