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Issues Around Bioprospecting, Traditional Knowledge and Access and Benefit Sharing in international and national legislation

Lindeskog, Susanne (2006)
Department of Law
Abstract
Biodiversity was during the 1990s perceived as 'green gold'. With the emergence of the biotechnology industry, biodiversity prospecting, or bioprospecting, was perceived to provide opportunities to gain benefits for several purposes. Benefits would attribute towards conservation, development of source countries, new medicines, profits for the industry and welfare to local providers of biogenetic resources and traditional knowledge. Biodiversity became the object of international legislation, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Biodiversity Convention introduced several new concepts, of which the most important one was national sovereignty over biological resources. Through this, access and obligation of conservation was... (More)
Biodiversity was during the 1990s perceived as 'green gold'. With the emergence of the biotechnology industry, biodiversity prospecting, or bioprospecting, was perceived to provide opportunities to gain benefits for several purposes. Benefits would attribute towards conservation, development of source countries, new medicines, profits for the industry and welfare to local providers of biogenetic resources and traditional knowledge. Biodiversity became the object of international legislation, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Biodiversity Convention introduced several new concepts, of which the most important one was national sovereignty over biological resources. Through this, access and obligation of conservation was put under the control of the source country. The reason for introducing sovereign ownership of resources that before had been the ''common heritage of mankind'' was to enable benefit sharing, i.e. ensuring that benefits arising from the use of biological resources were channelled back to the source. The Convention further afforded protection to traditional knowledge. The level of protection has however, in the light of several highly-publicized biopiracy cases involving traditional knowledge, been the subject of an intense ongoing debate. The discussion has come to involve another international instrument, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The TRIPs Agreement establishes a system of minimum protection for intellectual property rights. Although a minimum system for developed countries, this was a substantial adjustment for several developing countries that did not afford patent protection to the extent of the minimum requirements in TRIPs. However, the promise of capacity-building technology transfer was the bargain that developing countries got in exchange for entering the Agreement. The relationship between the CBD and the TRIPs Agreement is an ongoing issue. Bioprospecting is at the heart of the intersection. Traditional knowledge is a form of an intellectual property right that is not provided for in the conventional system. Closely related to this are questions on patents derived from biological resources and associated knowledge and the legal framework for the sharing of the benefits accrued. Should benefits be shared when the patent is based on biogenetic material which was accessed with the assistance of traditional knowledge, but where the compound has been isolated in the laboratory and used in a product to treat a completely different disease than the disease envisaged by the traditional knowledge? And how should they be shared? This thesis poses two main questions. How is biological resources and associated traditional knowledge protected through international and national legislation when it is the subject of interest in bioprospecting activity, and does this stimulate bioprospecting projects or do current trends in legislation act as a deterrent? Through an overview of legislation and, to a rudimentary extent, economic theory, it tries to provide with some suggestive answers. The thesis begins with presenting key concepts to biodiversity and bioprospecting in the introductory chapter. Terms like biodiversity, biological resources traditional knowledge (TK), prior informed consent (PIC) and access and benefit sharing (ABS) are briefly explained. Chapter 3 gives an overview of value theories of bioprospecting and access and benefit sharing. It shows that the value of biodiversity is elusive, and dependent on how it is used. As raw material the value is less than as a piece that is used to create an idea. The idea itself has more value than biodiversity (for example as timber) but less value than an invention. Further it presents a market based approach to ABS where it is argued that the regulatory approach in current national legislations is detrimental to future bioprospecting projects. Bioprospecting is also put forward as cost-saving for the government. The second part of chapter 3 presents two projects that provide practical examples. In chapter 4 the international framework for patent protection and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use presented. The relevant articles in TRIPs and the CBD are presented as well as voluntary guidelines and codes of conduct. Chapter 5 elaborates on the relationship between the TRIPs Agreement and the CBD. It is established that while there is no direct relation between IPRs and conservation of biodiversity, IPRs nevertheless form part of the economic and social context in which conservation takes place. Intellectual property rights are relevant for the crafting of ABS arrangements relating to equity. Furthermore, the chapter gives an overview of the differing opinions of developing contra developed countries, reflected through discussions in the TRIPs Council. Mainly developing countries are pressing for a requirement of prior informed consent which would be mandatory in patent application. Developed countries, with the US on the front line, oppose such requirements stating that the intellectual property system is not the right forum to solve issues of biopiracy and ABS. Chapter 6 is devoted to describing and comparing two national (the Philippines and Costa Rica) and two regional (the Andean Community and the Organization of African Unity (OAU)) ABS instruments. When looking closer at regional and national regimes no one model emerges, rather there are considerable variations. Different cultural and legal systems require adaptation to local conditions. It is also possible that the time at which the legislation was adopted plays a significant role. The Philippine who was the first to enact ABS legislation opted not to include provisions on intellectual property while the OAU has very explicit provisions on traditional knowledge, perhaps reflecting the discussion in the TRIPs Council. Chapter 7 further analyzes the somewhat ambivalent view of the European Community on traditional knowledge and ABS. Given the importance of the biotechnology industry for the development of economic growth in Europe it is perhaps not strange that the EC is reluctant to introduce any constraints on intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, the EC has supported the Swiss proposal to introduce a disclosure requirement in the Patent Cooperation Treaty which governs international patent applications. Chapter 8, the analysis and the conclusion in chapter 9 suggests an appropriate trade-off between stimulating third generation biotechnology (genetic engineering techniques), on the more advanced level of research, and stricter application of the patentability criteria (i.e. novelty, inventive step and industrial application) to patent applications relating to ''raw'' material such as biological resources and associated TK. Otherwise the tightened IPR regime that is imposed on developing countries through the implementation of the TRIPs Agreement will aggravate biodiversity conservation and the maintenance of traditional knowledge relating to biodiversity. Further it is suggested that the biodiversity-rich countries (mainly the South) are trying to compensate for the non-stringency of the industrialized (North) countries' intellectual property rights legislation, thereby implementing restrictive rules that unintentionally hinders scientific research. This could be remedied through the fulfilment of the commitment of developed countries to provide for technology transfer to developing countries. In the creation of a viable technological platform for the developing countries to take advantage of the patent system under TRIPs, domestic traditional knowledge could receive adequate protection. In the end, bioprospecting is dependent on the achievement of good faith. (Less)
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author
Lindeskog, Susanne
supervisor
organization
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Folkrätt, Immaterialrätt, Komparativ rätt
language
English
id
1559651
date added to LUP
2010-03-08 15:55:24
date last changed
2010-03-08 15:55:24
@misc{1559651,
  abstract     = {Biodiversity was during the 1990s perceived as 'green gold'. With the emergence of the biotechnology industry, biodiversity prospecting, or bioprospecting, was perceived to provide opportunities to gain benefits for several purposes. Benefits would attribute towards conservation, development of source countries, new medicines, profits for the industry and welfare to local providers of biogenetic resources and traditional knowledge. Biodiversity became the object of international legislation, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Biodiversity Convention introduced several new concepts, of which the most important one was national sovereignty over biological resources. Through this, access and obligation of conservation was put under the control of the source country. The reason for introducing sovereign ownership of resources that before had been the ''common heritage of mankind'' was to enable benefit sharing, i.e. ensuring that benefits arising from the use of biological resources were channelled back to the source. The Convention further afforded protection to traditional knowledge. The level of protection has however, in the light of several highly-publicized biopiracy cases involving traditional knowledge, been the subject of an intense ongoing debate. The discussion has come to involve another international instrument, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The TRIPs Agreement establishes a system of minimum protection for intellectual property rights. Although a minimum system for developed countries, this was a substantial adjustment for several developing countries that did not afford patent protection to the extent of the minimum requirements in TRIPs. However, the promise of capacity-building technology transfer was the bargain that developing countries got in exchange for entering the Agreement. The relationship between the CBD and the TRIPs Agreement is an ongoing issue. Bioprospecting is at the heart of the intersection. Traditional knowledge is a form of an intellectual property right that is not provided for in the conventional system. Closely related to this are questions on patents derived from biological resources and associated knowledge and the legal framework for the sharing of the benefits accrued. Should benefits be shared when the patent is based on biogenetic material which was accessed with the assistance of traditional knowledge, but where the compound has been isolated in the laboratory and used in a product to treat a completely different disease than the disease envisaged by the traditional knowledge? And how should they be shared? This thesis poses two main questions. How is biological resources and associated traditional knowledge protected through international and national legislation when it is the subject of interest in bioprospecting activity, and does this stimulate bioprospecting projects or do current trends in legislation act as a deterrent? Through an overview of legislation and, to a rudimentary extent, economic theory, it tries to provide with some suggestive answers. The thesis begins with presenting key concepts to biodiversity and bioprospecting in the introductory chapter. Terms like biodiversity, biological resources traditional knowledge (TK), prior informed consent (PIC) and access and benefit sharing (ABS) are briefly explained. Chapter 3 gives an overview of value theories of bioprospecting and access and benefit sharing. It shows that the value of biodiversity is elusive, and dependent on how it is used. As raw material the value is less than as a piece that is used to create an idea. The idea itself has more value than biodiversity (for example as timber) but less value than an invention. Further it presents a market based approach to ABS where it is argued that the regulatory approach in current national legislations is detrimental to future bioprospecting projects. Bioprospecting is also put forward as cost-saving for the government. The second part of chapter 3 presents two projects that provide practical examples. In chapter 4 the international framework for patent protection and biodiversity conservation and sustainable use presented. The relevant articles in TRIPs and the CBD are presented as well as voluntary guidelines and codes of conduct. Chapter 5 elaborates on the relationship between the TRIPs Agreement and the CBD. It is established that while there is no direct relation between IPRs and conservation of biodiversity, IPRs nevertheless form part of the economic and social context in which conservation takes place. Intellectual property rights are relevant for the crafting of ABS arrangements relating to equity. Furthermore, the chapter gives an overview of the differing opinions of developing contra developed countries, reflected through discussions in the TRIPs Council. Mainly developing countries are pressing for a requirement of prior informed consent which would be mandatory in patent application. Developed countries, with the US on the front line, oppose such requirements stating that the intellectual property system is not the right forum to solve issues of biopiracy and ABS. Chapter 6 is devoted to describing and comparing two national (the Philippines and Costa Rica) and two regional (the Andean Community and the Organization of African Unity (OAU)) ABS instruments. When looking closer at regional and national regimes no one model emerges, rather there are considerable variations. Different cultural and legal systems require adaptation to local conditions. It is also possible that the time at which the legislation was adopted plays a significant role. The Philippine who was the first to enact ABS legislation opted not to include provisions on intellectual property while the OAU has very explicit provisions on traditional knowledge, perhaps reflecting the discussion in the TRIPs Council. Chapter 7 further analyzes the somewhat ambivalent view of the European Community on traditional knowledge and ABS. Given the importance of the biotechnology industry for the development of economic growth in Europe it is perhaps not strange that the EC is reluctant to introduce any constraints on intellectual property rights. Nevertheless, the EC has supported the Swiss proposal to introduce a disclosure requirement in the Patent Cooperation Treaty which governs international patent applications. Chapter 8, the analysis and the conclusion in chapter 9 suggests an appropriate trade-off between stimulating third generation biotechnology (genetic engineering techniques), on the more advanced level of research, and stricter application of the patentability criteria (i.e. novelty, inventive step and industrial application) to patent applications relating to ''raw'' material such as biological resources and associated TK. Otherwise the tightened IPR regime that is imposed on developing countries through the implementation of the TRIPs Agreement will aggravate biodiversity conservation and the maintenance of traditional knowledge relating to biodiversity. Further it is suggested that the biodiversity-rich countries (mainly the South) are trying to compensate for the non-stringency of the industrialized (North) countries' intellectual property rights legislation, thereby implementing restrictive rules that unintentionally hinders scientific research. This could be remedied through the fulfilment of the commitment of developed countries to provide for technology transfer to developing countries. In the creation of a viable technological platform for the developing countries to take advantage of the patent system under TRIPs, domestic traditional knowledge could receive adequate protection. In the end, bioprospecting is dependent on the achievement of good faith.},
  author       = {Lindeskog, Susanne},
  keyword      = {Folkrätt,Immaterialrätt,Komparativ rätt},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Issues Around Bioprospecting, Traditional Knowledge and Access and Benefit Sharing in international and national legislation},
  year         = {2006},
}