Attendance at this, the Forty-Sixth Session of WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, provided a renewed chance for FICPI engage with this work prior to the Diplomatic Conference related to the work scheduled for 2024. Re-engaging with the work of the IGC remains important to FICPI although it does not actively participate in such works.

The 46th IGC session considered the next in a series of draft agreements on Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCE). The texts of the 45th IGC session were revised, and again put forward for discussion by those participating in the 46th IGC session as documents WIPO/GRTKF/IC/46/4 (“TK draft articles”) and  WIPO/GRTKF/IC/46/5 (“TCE draft articles”). The session was once again held in hybrid format, with a number of countries represented in person in Geneva, Switzerland, or online. FICPI was represented online.


Participation of Indigenous and Local Communities

The meeting was opened on the morning of Monday, 27 February 2023, by the Assistant Director General, Edward Kwakwa (ADG) and chaired by Ms Lilyclaire Bellamy (Chair). During the opening of the 46th session, the ADG took the opportunity to request contributions to the Voluntary Fund which was said to be essentially depleted.

The Monday morning session included a heartfelt virtual contribution by Ukraine expressing the influence of the Russia-Ukraine war. Ukraine emphasised that the war has rewritten the history of many Ukrainian families, affected their customs and traditions, and how they as a member state are pleased to participate in this discussion on what should be protectable subject matter in the context of TKs and TCEs. Poland and other European and Baltic member states followed, also expressing their despondency with the war in Ukraine especially with the 46th session of the IGC being held so shortly after the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The members put into context that while they were discussing the importance of cultural heritage and traditional knowledge, a war is ravaging and breaking the spirit of a people, their traditions, knowledge and culture. 

For the remainder of the morning session, after the conclusion of certain formal agenda items, the Participation of Local and Indigenous Communities commenced. This included a discussion on the Report of the Indigenous Expert Workshop on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions (document WIPO/GRTKF/IC/46/INF/9) and Panel of Indigenous and Local Communities.


Discussion of draft TK and TCE articles

The Monday afternoon session included reporting on the Ad Hoc Expert Group on Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expressions and a discussion of the articles of the TK/TCE draft texts dealing with the terms and objectives, including a review of the facilitators’ texts in that regard.

The rest of the week once again centred around discussing revisions of the TK and TCE draft articles presented to the IGC by various parties involved in the meeting.

Tuesday’s sessions included discussions on the eligibility criteria, beneficiaries, scope of protection, and exceptions and limitations.

Wednesday’s sessions considered the revisions made to the TK and TCE draft articles dealing with term of protection, formalities, relationship with other international agreements, national treatment and transboundary cooperation.

The Thursday morning session was short and considered the review clause of the facilitators' text. After the morning session those members attending in-person entered into an informal meeting which considered the scope of protection. With the afternoon session being cancelled as the Committee had already considered the necessary aspects of the draft articles of the TK/TCE draft texts.

The Friday morning session followed, during which the agenda item concerning the Participation of indigenous and local communities was raised again as this item had not been closed during Monday’s session. The item related to the Voluntary Fund advisory board. The Chair thanked the members of the Advisory Board for assigning non-existent funds to facilitate participation of the indigenous peoples and mentioned that the recommendations of the Board were reported in WIPO/GRTKF/IC/46/INF/6. To put the Fund into perspective, the Chair explained that it requires almost CHF 4,000 to facilitate the participation of a single indigenous member and that whatever member states were able to contribute the Fund would be appreciated.

The facilitators then introduced the revisions they had made, as well as explained the underlying rationale behind those changes made to the draft texts, all of which will be transmitted to the Forty-Seventh Session of the Committee.


Decisions of the Forty-Sixth session of the Committee

During the remainder of the Friday morning session, the Chair adopted certain agenda items and noted others. These agenda items included the decisions of the Committee, namely that the Committee had unanimously approved the accreditation of Fundación Empresas Indígenas as an ad hoc observer.

The Committee also took note of the report of the Indigenous Expert Workshop as contained in document (WIPO/GRTKF/IC/46/INF/9) and the Information Note on Contributions and Applications for Support for the WIPO Voluntary Fund for Accredited Indigenous and Local Communities (WIPO/GRTKF/IC/46/INF/4). And the Committee strongly encouraged and appealed to members of the Committee and all interested public and private entities to contribute to the WIPO Voluntary Fund.

The Chair proposed, and the Committee elected by acclamation, the following seven members of the Advisory Board to serve in an individual capacity:

1.     Ms. Bibi BARBA, Representative, Arts Law Centre

2.     Mr. Sebastian MOLINA, Chief of the IP Division, Vice-Ministry of Trade, Chile

3.     Ms. Lucy MULENKEI, Representative, Indigenous Information Network

4.     Mr. Allan NDAGIJE MUGARURA, Third Secretary, Permanent Mission of Uganda

5.     Mr. Medardo PIN CAJAPE, Representative, Comisión jurídica para el autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos (CAPAJ)

6.     Mr. Thomas REITINGER, Senior Patent Examiner, Patent Division, German Patent and Trademark Office, Federal Ministry of Justice, Germany

7.     Ms. Zakieh TAGHIZADEH, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of Iran.


The Committee developed, on the basis of document WIPO/GRTKF/IC/46/4, a further text, “The Protection of Traditional Knowledge: Draft Articles – Facilitators’ Rev.”, and on the basis of document WIPO/GRTKF/IC/46/5, a further text, “The Protection of Traditional Cultural Expressions: Draft Articles – Facilitators’ Rev.”. The Committee decided that these texts, as at the close of this agenda item on March 3, 2023, be transmitted to the Forty-Seventh Session of the Committee, which will be held in June 2023, in accordance with the Committee’s mandate for 2022-2023 and the work program for 2023.


Next meeting

The next meeting, the Forty-Seventh Session, will be held on the 5th of June 2023. Members have until then to work through and comment on the draft texts shared on 13 March, 2023, available as WIPO/GRTKF/IC/47/4 (“TK draft articles”) and WIPO/GRTKF/IC/47/5 (“TCE draft articles”).


FICPI’s view and involvement 

Independent IP attorneys bring insights and counsel from a wider external perspective and a commitment to high quality work, complying with all relevant regulations. FICPI uniquely combines education and advocacy on topics around patents and trade marks, with a focus on developing the professional excellence of its individual members. 

Next steps: get involved

FICPI plans to continue engaging with the important work of this committee – if you would like to become involved in this topic, please contact Robert Watson or Rowan Joseph.

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Photo attributionCopyright: WIPO. Photo: Emmanuel Berrod. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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