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New WIPO Treaty integrates patents with sustainability, poses challenges

After nearly a quarter-century of discussions, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) approved on May 24, 2024, a significant IP treaty: the WIPO Treaty on Intellectual Property, Genetic Resources, and Associated Traditional Knowledge.

Upon ratification by 15 contracting parties, the Treaty will establish a mandatory requirement on patent applicants to disclose the country of origin or source of genetic resources (“GRs”) and/or the indigenous peoples or local communities involved in providing traditional knowledge associated (“ATK”) with an invention. The Treaty aims to ensure proper acknowledgment of the origins of these resources and compliance with Access and Benefit-Sharing (“ABS”), aligning with the principles outlined in the Convention on Biological Diversity (“CBD”) of 1992 and the Nagoya Protocol.

As the inaugural WIPO treaty to tackle the complex intersection of intellectual property and sustainability, namely GRs, and ATK, it has been hailed as a “historic breakthrough.” For skeptics who thought IP multilateralism was a relic of the past, this new instrument proves otherwise. Yet, the treaty falls short of satisfying patent owners, who must be especially vigilant regarding this new disclosure requirement when applying for and enforcing their patents.

This article provides an analysis of the new treaty, shedding light on the nature, scope, and implications of the recently introduced disclosure requirement.


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