The Protection of Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge: Towards More Specific Rights and Obligations in World Trade Law

Posted: 29 Feb 2008

See all articles by Thomas Cottier

Thomas Cottier

University of Bern - Institute of European and International Economic Law

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Abstract

This article looks at intellectual property rights (IPRs) issues relevant to the past and the future: the exploitation of genetic and other biological resources. As genetic resources are becoming more scarce as a consequence of environmental degradation, and as industry is investing large sums to create new products based on these resources, the allocation of rights in them is of compelling interest. It is possible to draw close analogies both to traditional international and national law concepts of property allocation with respect to tangible natural resources and real and personal property, as well as to traditional concepts of intellectual property rights, but neither of the existing models should be used directly to address genetic resources. The granting of Traditional Intellectual Property Rights (TIP-Rights) would encourage the preservation of traditional knowledge; however, there are several obstacles to developing a system designed to protect such knowledge. A system of registration that does not require pre-grant examination may be the best alternative; rights should also not be limited to indigenous peoples or other groups, but rather should be available to all individuals and communities holding traditional knowledge. The importance to developed and developing countries of genetic resources and traditional knowledge requires that issues concerning their allocations and protection be brought into the WTO for resolution in the context of a Millennium Round.

Suggested Citation

Cottier, Thomas, The Protection of Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge: Towards More Specific Rights and Obligations in World Trade Law. Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 1, Issue 4, pp. 555-584, 1998. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=915043

Thomas Cottier (Contact Author)

University of Bern - Institute of European and International Economic Law ( email )

Hallerstrasse 6
Bern, CH-3012
Switzerland
+41 31 6313626 (Phone)

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