The Intergovernmental Committee at W.I.P.O. is charged with developing international legislation to protect traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, and genetic resources as classes of intellectual property. As various indigenous communities throughout the world are the originators and keepers of these categories of knowledge, one would expect their rights and concerns to be at the heart of treaty negotiations. However, despite several initiatives throughout the I.G.C.’s existence, explicit frustrations from indigenous groups at the committee have been multiplying for at least the last three years, stemming from the view that their interests are being subjugated in favour of those of national governments or global corporations.
Barring a few exceptions, there is a pattern as to where a country likely stands on protecting traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, and genetic resources at the Intergovernmental Committee. Simply look at a map, and determine if that country is closer to the North Pole or the South Pole.
In its mission to protect traditional knowledge and genetic resources as classes of intellectual property, the Intergovernmental Committee has produced two distinct solutions: a one-click clearing house database, and a mandatory patent source disclosure requirement. Each strategy has a different group of countries supporting it. And each strategy has perceived weaknesses that its opponents readily and repeatedly point out.
The Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (commonly referred to as simply “the [Intergovernmental] Committee” or “the I.G.C.”) is a department of the World Intellectual Property Organization (W.I.P.O.). Its mandate is to draft, negotiate, and implement formal international text-based legal structures that protect the authors and rights-holders of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions, and genetic resources from having these categories of intellectual property exploited or otherwise misused by outside parties.