Historic WIPO Treaty on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources Adopted by Member States

A groundbreaking agreement was reached on Friday 24 May 2024, as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Treaty on intellectual property, genetic resources, and associated traditional knowledge was adopted by all 193 WIPO member states. This historic treaty represents a significant milestone in international cooperation and innovation governance.

The key requirements of the WIPO treaty include mandatory disclosure of the origin of genetic resources used in patent applications, as well as any associated traditional knowledge. This aims to enhance transparency and accountability in the use of genetic resources and traditional knowledge, preventing erroneous patents and acknowledging the contributions of indigenous peoples and local communities to innovation.

While the treaty addresses important issues of transparency, some critics argue that it falls short in ensuring equitable benefit-sharing with indigenous communities. The omission of provisions for compensation raises concerns about continued exploitation of indigenous knowledge without acknowledgment or fair remuneration, underscoring the need for further action to protect the rights of marginalized communities in the intellectual property landscape.

Countries like South Africa, which has implemented proactive measures under the National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act and Biodiversity Access and Benefit-Sharing regulations, may face challenges in aligning with international standards set by the WIPO treaty. However, the treaty offers a transformative opportunity for inclusive and equitable innovation governance, transcending geopolitical divides.

As member states prepare for ratification and implementation of the WIPO treaty, strategic alignment and collaboration will be crucial. Balancing the protection of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge with global intellectual property demands will require careful negotiation and adaptability. The treaty signals a commitment to international cooperation and collective efforts to address complex challenges at the intersection of intellectual property and biodiversity conservation.

The road ahead involves coordination among governments, stakeholders, and indigenous communities to ensure effective enforcement and compliance with the treaty’s provisions. Ongoing dialogue and engagement will be essential to address remaining gaps and challenges in promoting equitable benefit-sharing and protecting traditional knowledge within the realm of intellectual property rights. The treaty will become international law upon ratification by 15 member states, marking a pivotal moment in global intellectual property governance.