Trips should have teeth to prevent bio-piracy

New Delhi, Nov 23 | Updated: Nov 24 2005, 05:30am hrs
India and five other countries have demanded that in order to prevent bio-piracy, protection of the components of biodiversity and associated traditional knowledge from theft must be integrated within the framework of the World Trade Organisations (WTO) trade-related intellectual property rights (Trips) agreement.

In a submission made to the WTO council on Trips, the group of countries which include India, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba and Pakistan pointed out that the United States recent argument that there was no conflict between Trips and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was untrue.

The countries submitted that the Trips agreement, as it stands today, while promoting the granting of patents to products based on genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, contains no effective provisions to protect those resources and associated knowledge from misappropriation and theft.

The inclusion of provisions in Trips to protect genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge from misappropriation would, in practice not only support fulfillment of the objectives of the CBD, but would also be in line with the fundamental objectives of Trips, the submission said.

The group also trashed the US claim that the objectives of the Trips, as stated in Article 7, was similar to the CBD. The submission argued that Article 7 of Trips, which points to the need for a balance between the monopoly rights granted under the intellectual property (IP) regime and the public interest, was very different from what the CBD envisions.

Trips provides for the benefits that should accrue to the society at large in return for the grant of intellectual property rights, viz. promotion of technological innovation, transfer and dissemination of technology, social and economic welfare etc.

The CBD promotes a system, which claims benefit-sharing in respect of the use of genetic and biological resources and associated traditional knowledge for the countries of origin and providers of such resources or traditional knowledge which, regrettably, are not currently protected under Trips, the submission pointed out. The lack of safeguards against misappropriation in the Trips context has led to a situation where, under the existing IP regime, those genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge are often erroneously dealt with as if they formed part of the public domain, open to appropriation by anybody without any obligation to ask for permission and pay back the provider.