WIPO Implements Treaty On Genetic Resources in Patents

WIPO Implements Treaty On Genetic Resources in Patents

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) sanctions first new Treaty in ten years.

WIPO has signed a new treaty focused on patent rights regarding genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with them. The treaty mandates that patent seekers utilizing genetic resources, such as medications derived from plant-produced substances, must divulge the origins of said genetic resources. 

Finalized on May 24 this year, the Treaty on IP, Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge represents WIPO’s first treaty in over a decade, specifically addressing the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. This agreement boosts transparency as traditional knowledge sourced from Indigenous Peoples and local communities in patent applications will be recognised and protected under this Treaty. 

Patent applicants must now: 

  1. Disclose any genetic resources associated within the patent; 
  2. Specify the country of origin or the source of genetic resources;
  3. Disclose contributions from Indigenous Peoples and local communities, such as traditional knowledge. 

The Treaty will take effect after ratification by all 15 WIPO member states. Any member state is able to enter into this agreement. 

Definitions for the Treaty on IP, Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge:

  1. Genetic Resources (GR): ‘Genetic material of actual or potential value containing functional units of heredity.’ 
  2. Traditional Knowledge (TK): ‘Knowledge, know-how, skills and practices that are developed, sustained and passed on from generation to generation within a community, often forming part of its cultural and spiritual identity. 
  3. Based On: ‘Must have been necessary for the claimed invention.’ 

The agreement suggests each country is responsible for establishing an adequate sanction for patent applicants who fail to disclose contributions by country of origin or traditional knowledge from local communities. A clause within the treaty also suggests patents may not be invalidated or revoked solely on the basis of the failure to disclose such necessary information, when additional evidence of ill intent is absent. 

The Treaty will not apply to patent applications filed prior to activation of the agreement. 

WIPO director general Daren Tang notes that the treaty ‘made history’, stating: 

‘[The Treaty] is showing that the intellectual property system can continue to incentivise innovation while evolving in a more inclusive way, responding to the needs of all countries and their communities.’ 

sources: reseachprofessionalnews, patentlyo, jurist

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