Sixteen countries meet to protect intangible property
Sixteen like-minded countries started a three-day meeting in Bali on Wednesday to discuss strategies toward developing an international legally binding instrument to protect genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore (GRTKF), which are known as intangible property.
Attending the meeting are representatives from Algeria, Brunei Darussalam, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Lebanon, Malaysia, Namibia, Pakistan, Peru, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as from World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the South Center.
During this meeting organized by the Foreign Ministry, these countries will seek to decide their strategy to push WIPO to approve a diplomatic conference next year. The diplomatic conference is expected to produce an international legally binding mechanism that will regulate the protection of intangible property.
The mechanisms will regulate benefit-sharing systems if one country takes advantage of genetic resources, traditional knowledge or folklore of another country.
Indonesia initiated the meeting over concerns that the WIPO had failed to advance discussions of the draft for years due to disagreements between developing and developed countries over the three issues within the system of intellectual property rights.
Previously, delegations of like-minded countries have declared common perspectives on the “Recommendation to Advance the Work of WIPO to Establish an International Legal Instrument(s) on the Effective Protection of Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expression [Folklore]”.
At the meeting’s opening, the ministry’s director general of legal and international agreement, Linggawaty Hakim, highlighted the importance of protecting genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression, because they reflected the identity of a country and its people.
“This intangible property is not only our identity, but also an economic and cultural potential. Therefore, it needs international protection, similar to intellectual property rights,” she said.
According to Linggawaty, the value from the use of intellectual property rights for transactions of genetic resources worldwide could reach US$800 billion per year.
She regretted that although the international community had paid attention to the issue of protecting and preserving GRTKF, there had yet to be a proper protection mechanism for this property, unlike intellectual property rights.
“Indonesia needs to have its own protection instrument at the national level by making a database, and at the same time we must also play a greater role to finalize international consensus on the matter,” she said.
In the meeting, participant countries also discussed the results of previous inter-governmental committee meetings and consolidated their position ahead of the WIPO General Assembly later this year.
The foreign ministry’s director for economic, social and cultural agreement, Bebeb Djundjunan, said that there should be an applicable policy from the country’s stakeholders to ensure the protection of intangible property as part of the process of creating a national database on genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.
“As commitment at the international level is growing and getting stronger, this is the perfect timing to finalize all legal instruments needed to protect GRTKF.”
“The national database is not only important in protecting and preserving intangible property, but also in promoting suitable mechanisms to manage it.”
Protecting this intangible property is crucial, as many people in a country are unaware of the existence of the property until it is claimed by a foreign party, he added.
There will likely be resistance from developing countries to agreeing benefit-sharing mechanisms, which may increase the difficulty of negotiations in the WIPO meeting.