World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) Adopts Treaty on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge

World Intellectual Property Organization (“WIPO”) Adopts Treaty on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge

In a historic step toward protecting Indigenous Peoples’ genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, on May 24, 2024, Member States of WIPO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, adopted a landmark new treaty. Culminating over two decades of negotiations, the treaty requires patent applicants to disclose when they seek to patent inventions that are based on genetic resources and/or traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources.  The disclosure requirement is aimed at preventing the erroneous granting of patents based on “prior art” (e.g., the use of plant medicine known to Indigenous Peoples for centuries) and can also help to curb instances of biopiracy by pharmaceutical companies and others who seek to profit from use of traditional knowledge to develop new medications or other products. The treaty, WIPO’s first involving Indigenous Peoples, references the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as States’ commitment to achieving the ends of the Declaration. It also includes provisions allowing for Indigenous Peoples’ participation in the treaty’s implementation.

The treaty will enter into force following ratification by 15 countries. Negotiations will continue at WIPO in December 2024, on other potential treaties for the protections for Indigenous Peoples’ traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.  The Native American Rights Fund participates in the negotiations on behalf of the National Congress of American Indians. 

WIPO Member States Adopt Historic New Treaty on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge

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