In September 2016, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) held its 31st Session. Since the last session of the IGC two years ago, the IGC is back with a new mandate from member states aimed at ensuring the balanced and effective protection of genetic resources (GRs), traditional knowledge (TK), and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs).

As readers may know, WIPO’s work on GRs, TK and TCEs has focussed on finding the appropriate role of IP in the protection, preservation and promotion of TK, TCEs and GRs through normative development and capacity building. WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) was created in 2000 and had its first session in 2001. It is a forum where negotiations take place for an international legal instrument on TK, TCEs and GRs. IGC participants include Member States, indigenous and local communities, business, civil society and other NGOs.

With regard to normative development, the IGC is developing a sui generis system of protection using IP principles, values and systems with a focus on: the prevention of misappropriation and misuse as opposed to preservation and safeguarding.

The IGC 2016-2017 mandate is to continue to expedite its work, with a focus on narrowing existing gaps, with open and full engagement, including text-based negotiations with the objective of reaching an agreement on an international legal instrument(s), without prejudging the nature of outcome(s), relating to IP which will ensure the balanced and effective protection of GRs, TK and TCEs. The focus is on reaching a common understanding on core issues a clearly defined work program based on sound working methods. There will be six sessions of the IGC in 2016/2017, including thematic, cross-cutting and stocktaking sessions. The IGC may decide to establish an expert panel(s) and hold Ambassadorial/Senior Capital-Based Officials meetings. The IGC will use all WIPO working documents, as well as any other contributions by members, using an evidence-based approach.