WIPO Treaty Big Win for India and Global South

    AgricultureAgriculture policyWIPO Treaty Big Win for India and Global South
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    WIPO Treaty Big Win for India and Global South

    The agreement on rights of communities related to their genetic resources and traditional knowledge was concluded at the WIPO headquarters in Geneva on Friday.

    The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has finally arrived a treaty that protects traditional knowledge of the Global South, a spokesperson of the Union Ministry of commerce and industry announced on Friday.

    The WIPO treaty on intellectual property, genetic resources (GRs) and associated traditional knowledge (ATK), the spokesperson said, is a “significant win” for India and the Global South as it will help protecting traditional knowledge from being misappropriated by big business, depriving rightful ownership of the knowledge to the communities where the knowledge has originated from.

    The treaty relating to genetic resources and traditional knowledge associated with the genetic resources culminates 25 years of discussions and negotiations, the spokesperson added. He said that the pact provides additional safeguard to the rich genetic resources and traditional knowledge of countries like India as it protects them from misappropriation by transnational corporations.

    The agreement is a result of hard bargains and deliberations over two weeks involving 192 countries and 86 observers.

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    India is a mega biodiversity hotspot with abundance of traditional knowledge, and wisdom, the ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

    For the first time the system of knowledge and wisdom which have supported economies, societies and cultures for centuries are now inscribed into the global intellectual property (IP) system. For the first time, again, the connection between local communities and their GRs and ATK is recognised in the global IP community. “These are historic achievements long championed by India as a provider of traditional knowledge and wisdom and repository of biodiversity,” the ministry said. 

    The treaty will not only safeguard and protect biodiversity but will increase transparency in the patent system and strengthen innovation. Through this, the IP system can continue to incentivize innovation while evolving in a more inclusive way, responding to the needs of all countries and their communities. 

    Mandatory disclosure obligations

    The treaty also marks a big win for India and the global south which has for long been a proponent of this instrument. After two decades of negotiations and with collective support this treaty has been adopted at the multilateral fora, with a consensus among more than 150 countries. 

    A PIB press release says, “With the majority of the developed countries on board, who generate IP and use these resources and knowledge for research and innovation this treaty paves the way for bridging conflicting paradigms within the IP system and the protection of biodiversity which have existed for decades.” 

    The treaty on ratification and entry into force will require contracting parties to put In place, mandatory disclosure obligations for patent applicants to disclose the country of origin or source of the genetic resources when the claimed invention is based on genetic resources or associated traditional knowledge. This will offer added protection to Indian genetic resources and traditional knowledge, which while currently protected in India are prone to misappropriation in countries which do not have disclosure of obligations. Therefore, by creating global standards on disclosure of origin obligations, this treaty creates an unprecedented framework within the IP system for provider countries of Genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge. 

    At present, only 35 countries have some form of disclosure obligations, most of which are not mandatory and do not have appropriate sanctions or remedies in place for effective implementation. This treaty will require contracting parties, including the developed world,  to bring changes in their existing legal framework for enforcing disclosure of origin obligations on patent applicants. 

    The treaty marks the start of the journey to achieve collective growth and deliver the promise of a sustainable future, a cause which India has championed for centuries.

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