World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

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Home » Resources » Traditional Knowledge & the UN » World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO)

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) provides a forum for international policy debate and development of legal mechanisms and practical tools concerning the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (folklore) against misappropriation and misuse, and the intellectual property (IP) aspects of access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources.

A WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) was established in September 2000. Primary themes include the intellectual property questions raised by:

  • access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing;
  • protection of traditional knowledge, whether or not associated with those resources;
  • protection of expressions of folklore.

The IGC is a WIPO response to the increasing attention that the role of intellectual property (IP) systems in relation to traditional knowledge, in particular how to preserve, protect and equitably make use of TK, is receiving in other international policy discussions, including those concerned with food and agriculture, the environment (notably the conservation of biological diversity), health (including traditional medicines), human rights and indigenous issues, and aspects of trade and economic development.

These IP issues break down into two key themes:

  • Defensive protection of TK, or measures which ensure that IP rights over TK are not given to parties other than the customary TK holders; and
  • Positive protection of TK, or the creation of positive rights in TK that empower TK holders to protect and promote their TK.

The work of the IGC has covered many, diverse policy, legal and practical questions, at the national, regional and international level. Two current sets of discussions focus on draft provisions for the protection of traditional cultural expressions (TCEs, folklore) and TK , and on two related sets of issues concerning the protection of TCEs and TK.

Visit the WIPO TK page...

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