Wednesday, October 11, 2006

WTO and Biodiversity (2)

some more on the discussion on biodiversity (genetic resources, indegenous knowledge) and its impact at WTO. The part below has been written by Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen (original source Intellectual Property Watch) October 10, 2006.

WTO TRIPS Council To Discuss Biodiversity (...)

By Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen
Developing countries say they will push their proposal on biodiversity and the European Union is sharply stepping up its call for enforcement, but otherwise the preliminary agenda of an upcoming World Trade Organization meeting on intellectual property seems to be reserved for “housekeeping” issues, according to sources.

The meeting of the Council of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) is planned for 25-26 October.

As the overall free-trade talks arising from the 2001 WTO ministerial in Doha, Qatar have been in limbo since July, the issues in the TRIPS Council related to these talks are not expected to move, a developing country source said.

“Everything is quiet,” a Thai official told Intellectual Property Watch, adding that “even in the TRIPS Council” there seems to be a “mode of wait and see.” Little is expected to happen in the TRIPS Council until the general talks move in the area of agriculture and non-agricultural market access, the source said, adding, “I hope [the TRIPS Council meeting will be] short and sharp.”

A developed country official said that this likely would be a meeting on “housekeeping” issues, while an EU official said that many of the issues are “ongoing business” from previous meetings.

TRIPS Biodiversity Issue Returns

But another developing country official told Intellectual Property Watch that the six developing countries that tabled a proposal in May on the relationship between the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the TRIPS agreement regarded the upcoming council meeting as an opportunity to “bring the issue back” (IPW, WTO/TRIPS, 1 June 2006).

The official said that the six countries had not discussed the issue since the collapse of the talks.

The Thai official said that there are “lots of problems with biopiracy in Thailand,” despite the introduction of national laws two years ago, showing the need for international regulation.

The May proposal suggests adding a new Article 29bis to the TRIPS agreement. TRIPS Article 29 covers disclosure requirements of inventions for patent applicants.

The proposal suggests that it should become mandatory to disclose, in the application form, the source of biological resources and/or associated traditional knowledge, as well as show that authorisation has been given and that a benefit-sharing scheme for possible economic gain is in place.

At the moment, there is little these developing countries could trade this off with in a “quid-pro-quo” fashion, a source said. Some countries have suggested issues related to digital copyrights, which have been debated at the World Intellectual Property Organization, but some developing countries are not ready for that trade off, the source said.

The Thai official said developed countries had asked for proof of the occurrence of biopiracy.