USPTO Supports Greater Protection for Traditional Knowledge and Folklore

Geneva Meeting Adopts U.S. Backed Measures to Enhance Protection
Press Release

Richard Maulsby

The Commerce Department's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) supported ambitious proposals to focus and accelerate work on the protection of traditional knowledge and folklore at a meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, Switzerland last week. At the Sixth Session of WIPO's Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, the United States and other WIPO member states agreed to work towards common policy objectives and principles and to consider legal mechanisms to protect traditional knowledge and folklore.

Traditional knowledge may include traditional methods of treating illnesses with a combination of herbs, for example. Folklore may include such artistic expressions as a tribal dance. The United States has been actively seeking ways of protecting this type of subject matter and rewarding the indigenous and local communities that originate it. At last week's meeting, the United States voiced strong support for the development of model contractual provisions that would be applicable to traditional knowledge, genetic resources and folklore.

Commenting on last week's developments, Lois Boland, director of the USPTO's Office of International Relations, pledged that, "the United States will continue to seek practical and constructive solutions to the protection of traditional knowledge."

The U.S. delegation at last week's meeting also included representatives from the State Department, Copyright Office and the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

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