Friday, January 20, 2006

Traditional Knowledge: Intellectual Property to be Protected?

(Comtex Global News Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)
WASHINGTON, Jan 19,2006
(U.S. Newswire via COMTEX)

In advance of next week's Conventionon Biological Diversity (CBD) in Spain, the Institute for PolicyInnovation (IPI) hosted a policy luncheon yesterday to explore some of the issues at stake in the debate over "traditional knowledge."

Event host Dr. Merrill Matthews, resident scholar at IPI, opened the conference by noting that traditional knowledge (TK) "raises new questions about what is and isn't intellectual property."

Doug Neumann, senior conservation officer with the U.S. StateDepartment, explained that the U.S. is against patent disclosure (i.e. requiring patent applicants to disclose the origin of genetic resources in inventions) in part because it affects product development. "The big question is how we get any sort of TK protective systems andIPR (intellectual property rights) systems to work in harmony so that they minimize any grey areas," Neumann said. "We believe the WorldIntellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has the technical expertise to look at these issues rather than the CBD, which is more environmentally focused."

Presenting the NGO perspective, David Waskow, international program director for Friends of the Earth, pointed out, "There are many folks who would agree with (the US') view. Where they would differ with the US in practice is that the US has often pressed in trade agreements for countries to adopt certain kinds of intellectual property protection in ways that limit the ability of those national governments to in fact put the kinds of protections they would like to see in place."

Dr. Ananda Chakrabarty, professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine and born in India, pointed out that the success ofIndia's recent economic growth is tied to its product patents. "Now that India has signed the TRIPS agreement ... there is a great opportunity for countries like India -- (including) China, Brazil and other developing countries -- to accept the fact that the future looks good. They will be able to generate new products to bring to the worldmarket." The conference did not seek to resolve all of the issues raised by traditional knowledge and intellectual property, but it did set the stage for future dialogue.

The Institute for Policy Innovation is an independent think tank basedout of Dallas, Texas.
Sonia Blumstein of the Institute for Policy Innovation