Collective IP Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The 18th Session of the IGC at WIPO

Amelia Manera is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The concept of collective rights of Indigenous Peoples with regards to intellectual property rights is just one of the topics under discussion at the Eighteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetics Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) being held at WIPO from May 9th-13th in Geneva, Switzerland.

While the agenda for the eighteenth session, posted here, is provisional, the session will be addressing issues surrounding Traditional Cultural Expressions, Traditional Knowledge, and Genetic Resources with regards to intellectual property rights.

At the start of the week-long conference there will be a half-day panel of presentations chaired by a representative of the local or indigenous community; this has been done since 2005 at the mandate of the IGC. The theme of the panel of the eighteenth session is: “Indigenous Peoples’ Collective Rights and Intellectual Property.” The provisional agenda for the panel can be seen here, and includes the topics of: “The Collective Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Their Conceptual Foundations and Implications”; and “The Intellectual Property Regime and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights: Future Challenges for Indigenous Peoples.”

Also, in preparation for discussion at the eighteenth session of the IGC, several glossary of terms have been made with regards to Intellectual Property and Traditional Cultural Expressions, Traditional Knowledge, and Genetic Resources. It has been suggested that the glossaries could be consolidated at some point in the future as there are overlaps of applicable terms.

At the seventeenth session of the IGC, it was decided that the Chair, Ambassador Philip Owade, would undertake an informal consultation with committee members regarding possible changes to the draft articles on traditional cultural expressions that would be addressed at the eighteenth session. The changes under consideration were about streamlining the draft articles, in particular, reducing the number of options and alternative proposals; policy questions were not considered. Members were required to register to participate in the consultation forum. The Chair created questions to instigate discussion. Only 5 of the 50 registered members commented and the Chair decided not to prepare an amended draft version of the articles as a result. The current draft version of the articles on traditional cultural expressions can be seen here.

The eighteenth session will afford committee members another opportunity to address the draft articles, which may facilitate more participation. Also, the eighteenth session of the IGC should be a great success with further advances towards creative solutions to the issues surrounding intellectual property rights and traditional cultural expressions.