Mechanisms for protection of local community's intellectual property rights in the North Eastern part of India - Need experiences and inputs

From Ruchi Pant, UNDP, New Delhi
Posted 20 December 2006

Dear Members,

As part of my earlier work in North East India, I found that although indigenous communities in biodiversity rich areas are amongst the poorest in the world, they have a wealth of traditional knowledge relevant to current food, agriculture and health needs of the world.

However, these communities are facing increasing alienation and bio-piracy of their traditional knowledge and bio-genetic resources by researchers and companies which commercialise and patent their resources without their consent or benefit-sharing. Such patents can also threaten community livelihoods by granting exclusive rights to others and restricting community access.

At the same time, globalization and other pressures are steadily eroding the systems that support health and food security of local communities, and there is very little support for ensuring continuation of their knowledge systems. Moreover, in spite of attempts by agencies such as Convention on Biological Diversity and the TRIPS Council, modern society has still not been able to design effective access and benefit-sharing mechanisms for protecting rights of indigenous communities over their traditional knowledge.

In this backdrop, where protection regimes are yet to be in place and where traditional knowledge is fast disappearing, I request members to share information on the following:

  • Experiences of community based organizations (CBOs) or civil society groups in setting up alternative models of Intellectual Property Rights for protection of communities’ rights over their knowledge and bio-genetic resources. Examples where the livelihood needs and value systems of indigenous communities have also been addressed are most welcome.
  • Experiences of using Peoples’ Biodiversity Registers or other documentation models and whether these have helped communities in India and elsewhere to add value to their knowledge and to leverage livelihood prospects
  • Examples of successful access and benefit-sharing arrangements in India or other countries. What is the nature of benefits accruing to the community and how are the benefits shared among scattered communities sharing the same knowledge and bio-resources?

The discussion will provide many groups guidance and information about designing and implementing effective methods for protecting traditional community knowledge.

Please see attachment below for the responses.