TRIPS, Patents and Traditional Knowledge
Abstract: Through WTO membership, a large number of countries are parties to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, also known as TRIPs. The strongest form of IP protection is the patent, which grants a number of valuable exclusive rights when the criteria for patentability have been met. Patents are often claimed to be a means for inventors to regain the expenses they may have had during research and development of the invention. In the biotechnological industry patenting is increasing, and Traditional Knowledge is an important source of information in product development. Complications arise when inventions are based on genetic resources or TK, which are often obtained from developing countries or indigenous communities. There are discussions of what rights to compensation the sources of the genetic resources and TK may have under the current TRIPs patent system. Many argue that TRIPs should be changed, so as to better support another international agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity. This agreement states, amongst other things, that every State has the right to determine under what conditions access to its genetic resources and TK are to be given. It also requires prior informed consent from the sources of genetic resources and TK. By making TRIPS to include requirements of Prior Informed Consent and Benefit Sharing, it is argued by some that both indigenous communities and developing countries may benefit, as well as the environment and biodiversity.
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