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Expert Meeting on Systems and National Experiences for Protecting Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices
30 October - 01 November 2000

Key Issues



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The Expert Meeting on Systems and National Experiences for Protecting Traditional Knowledge, Innovations and Practices will take place in Geneva from 30 October to 1 November 2000. The Meeting will open at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, at 10 a.m. on Monday, 30 October.

The provisional agenda for the meeting, together with the secretariat’s annotations thereto, will be circulated as document TD/B/COM.1/EM.13/1. The background note prepared by the secretariat will be circulated as document TD/B/COM.1/EM.13/2. Presentations by country experts are expected to provide country-specific experiences and views. A proposed guideline for inputs by experts is attached.

The objective of the Meeting is to generate a wide-ranging exchange of national experiences and views among experts who have been actively involved in or studied issues related to the protection of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices (TK). The experts will address the objectives of TK protection systems and possible means of achieving those ends, including prior informed consent, access and benefit sharing mechanisms, strengthening customary/traditional law, using intellectual property instruments, developing sui generis systems, and documenting traditional knowledge, as well as measures to encourage TK-based innovations and the development and export of TK-derived products (where appropriate). For each of these issues, the Meeting should draw out lessons learned regarding best practices and pitfalls to be avoided at the national level and explore possible avenues for international cooperation and support.

The Meeting´s outcome will be brought to the attention of the Commission on Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities, at its fifth session, to be held from 26 February to 2 March 2001. The Commission may consider ways by which UNCTAD could, in cooperation with relevant intergovernmental organizations and other partners, address the protection of traditional knowledge, innovations and practices, in particular through capacity building, especially in LDCs.

Upon arrival, participants are requested, before entering the Palais des Nations, to collect their badge at the UN Security Service, Villa Les Feuillantines, 13 Avenue de la Paix (close to the main entrance to the Palais on the Place des Nations, on the opposite side of the road). The Security Service is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (non-stop). It is advisable to arrive by 9 a.m. to complete procedures and reach the meeting in good time. Walking from Villa Les Feuillantines to the E-Building of the Palais (Bâtiment E) takes about 10 minutes. Participants are advised to carry a passport or similar identification document on them.

States members of UNCTAD wishing to nominate experts to the Meeting are requested to do so as early as possible and in any case no later than 29 September 2000. Specialized agencies and intergovernmental bodies, should they wish to participate in the Expert Meeting, as well as non-governmental organizations in the General Category and those in the Special Category wishing to participate as observers, are also requested to inform the UNCTAD secretariat by the same date of the names of their representatives.

All communcations concerning representation should be sent to: UNCTAD secretariat, Intergovernmental Support Services, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland. (Telö +41 22 907 5007; Fax: +41 22 907 0056; e-mail: correspondence@unctad.org). All other enquiries should be addressed to the co-ordinator in the substantive division. (Tel: +41 22 907 5082/5679; Fax: +41 22 907 0247; e-mail: rene.vossenaar@unctad.org).

(p.p. signed)
Rubens Ricupero
Secretary-General of UNCTAD
23 August 2000

Inputs from experts

Experts nominated by member States are requested to submit brief papers in advance of the meeting to the UNCTAD secretariat. Papers will be made available to other participants at the meeting in the form and language in which they are received.

To facilitate a structured exchange of national experiences, experts are invited (but not required) to formulate their inputs according to the questions below. Experts may choose to give special attention to one or more topics which are of most relevance to their national experience and from which lessons could be drawn for the benefit of the other participants. Concrete illustrative examples are encouraged.

Possible topics to be addressed

The role of traditional knowledge (TK) in the national economy:

  • the importance and scope of TK, particularly biodiversity-related TK, traditional agriculture and traditional medicine
  • estimated economic value of TK in these and other areas

Protection of TK:

  • existing or envisaged systems for the protection of TK
  • objectives of these systems
  • the role of customary law in protecting TK and regulating its transfer
  • experiences and lessons learned regarding the use of existing intellectual property rights instruments for the protection of TK, including patents, plant variety protection, geographical indications, trademarks, trade secrets, etc.
  • sui generis legislation for the protection of TK
  • involvement of traditional communities, including women, in decision and policy-making in this area
  • mechanisms to control access to TK and ensure equitable sharing of the benefits derived therefrom
  • conditions to ensure that benefits are shared with the original holders of the TK
  • documentation of TK in registries, including
  • benefits sought
  • conditions for access
  • legal protection of information in registries (e.g. in national legislation)
  • dissemination (e.g. to other communities and to patent offices)
  • supportive measures adopted or envisaged by user countries or at the multilateral level

Harnessing TK for development and trade:

  • contribution of TK to sustainable socio-economic development and poverty alleviation
  • recognition and encouragement of TK-based innovations and technologies
  • commercialization and export of TK-derived products, including
    • role/involvement of the original TK-holders
    • role of partnerships
    • potential for future commercial expansion
    • risks and obstacles, and how to overcome them
  • the role of partnerships, including public-private sector and inter-community
  • areas for assistance from donor programmes and international organizations
  • role of Governments in promoting transfer of technology, including by providing incentives to the private sector

Experts are kindly requested to submit their papers (hardcopy and electronic format, please) by 16 October to: Sophia Twarog, Division on International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities UNCTAD, E.8033, Palais des Nations, CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland (Tel: +41 22 907 5082; Fax: +41 22 907 0247; e-mail: sophia.twarog@unctad.org


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