Commonwealth Trade Hot Topics

The Trade Hot Topics series provides concise and informative analyses of various trade and trade-related issues which are prepared both by Commonwealth Secretariat and international experts.


Mututal Recognition Agreements and the Protection of Traditional Knowledge

The legal protection of traditional knowledge has emerged as an issue of global importance propelled in large part by the increased interest of biotechnology companies in the genetic resources of developing countries. In recent years, the international community has intensified its search for effective remedial measures to counter perceived negative effects on indigenous communities arising from the widespread commercial exploitation of traditional knowledge particularly in the pharmaceutical, agriculture industries, entertainment and retail market sectors.

Significant improvements in the regulatory environment would provide indigenous groups greater control over the use of traditional knowledge and ensure access to traditional knowledge on mutually acceptable terms that respect indigenous culture. This issue of Trade Hot Topics provides an overview of the current international, regional and national instruments on traditional knowledge, noting that, for the most part, they incorporate domestic measures and are of limited use in tackling cases of misappropriation that have international dimensions. It examines recent arguments at the WTO for the protection of traditional knowledge under notions of reciprocity through a revision of the TRIPs Agreement to incorporate a disclosure requirement in applications for patents derived from traditional knowledge.


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