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Traditional Knowledge

Volume 447: debated on Monday 12 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the Government's policy is on the (a) maintenance and (b) extraction of value from the exploitation of traditional knowledge for indigenous communities in developing countries. (74559)

In its 2003 response to the report from the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights the UK Government broadly endorsed the analysis provided by the Commission on traditional knowledge (TK). In particular, the UK Government recognised the important part that traditional knowledge plays in the livelihood of many poor communities in developing countries, and thus the need to protect it.

As a signatory of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) the UK has agreed to

“respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities ... and encourage the equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilisation of such knowledge, innovations and practice”.

Discussions as to how best these objectives can be achieved are ongoing in the CBD and in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Inter-Governmental Committee on Traditional Knowledge, Folklore and Genetic Resources (IGC) and the UK is committed to achieving agreement on an international system which achieves these objectives.

The UK Patent Office is working with other members of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) on the development of appropriate TK databases which patent examiners can consult when dealing with patent applications involving TK. This will reduce the risk of patents being granted wrongly on existing TK.