Ecuador's ratification of the Nagoya Protocol presented to parliamentarian and other stakeholders

03 March 2015

The implications of the ratification of the Nagoya Protocol for trade, development and intellectual property was discussed with Ecuadorian parliamentarians, government officials and other users and providers of biological resources and related traditional knowledge.

UNCTAD, the Intellectual Property Institute of Ecuador (IEPI) and the Secretariat for High Education, Science and Technology (SENESCYT) jointly held a seminar, in Quito on26 of February 2015.

The objective of the event was to inform Parliamentarians, government officials and key users of the implications of a potential ratification of the Nagoya Protocol by Ecuador.

The protocol entered into force on 12 of October 2014 and though Ecuador had signed the protocol, it has not yet been ratified.

The Nagoya Protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization is an international environmental agreement.

It provides a legal multilateral framework for enhancing sustainable use and for sharing the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge by both providers and users in a fair and equitable way.

It will ensure that businesses and researches that wish to access and utilize such resources and knowledge fulfil certain requirements including prior informed consent and mutually agreed terms with competent national authorities and local and indigenous communities.

"Ecuador, being one of the most diverse countries on earth and a country rich in ancestral knowledge, stands to benefit from the new Protocol", said Mr. Andres Ycaza, Director of IEPI.

He added: "The Protocol will be an important tool for Ecuador's development, for it will allow the sharing of benefits that would emerge from the research and development (R&D) undertaken on the components of biodiversity".

The Protocol recognizes the role of indigenous peoples as generators and custodians of ancestral knowledge that could find useful applications.

"It reinforces the protection of traditional knowledge of indigenous and local communities and provides a legal platform for further legal development of sui generis (special - of its own kind) systems and other tools at the national level", pointed out Mr. Rodrigo de la Cruz, advisor to the SENESCYT.

Its ratification is essential for assuring legal recognition of rights over genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge of provider countries and indigenous and local communities within user countries.

Without its ratification, users countries, mostly developed countries, would have no obligation to enforce legal and legitimate access and the sharing of benefits arising from the utilisation of those resources and their associated knowledge in their territories.

It is therefore crucial that countries with potential to become providers of genetic resources ratify and start implementing the protocol by setting the regulatory framework required as soon as possible.

The Protocol will have important implications on the role of intellectual property offices, since they would act as "checkpoints" to ensure that applicants fulfil national regulations on access and benefit sharing in light of obligations under the Protocol.

Genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge are important inputs for research and development (R&D) and product development, especially in the biotechnology field.

In this regard, David Vivas Eugui, Legal Officer at UNCTAD, pointed out that: "Successful R&D outcomes based on genetic resources and traditional knowledge are important candidates for patent and breeders rights applications. Patent and breeder rights applicants need to comply with the Protocol in order to obtain access to the genetic material needed as any other user"

The EU is one of the first to enact legislation to apply the Protocol. Its recently approved Regulation 511/2014 sets a clear regulatory framework for users of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

This is an important step towards the conservation of biodiversity and benefit sharing since the EU and its Member States are one of the main users of genetic resources.