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Otafiire calls for protection of ‘traditional knowledge’

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The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Major General (rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, has told the 2017 General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) that protection of traditional knowledge and the country’s genetic resources from misappropriation is a key ingredient of Uganda’s  National Intellectual Property strategy for promoting creativity and innovation.

Minister Otafiire, who is leading a Ugandan delegation at the Assembly, said the two major components are aimed at promoting access to alternative health care, food security, preservation of biodiversity and sustainable development.

The WIPO member states and decision-making bodies are meeting this week in Geneva, Switzerland from October 2-11, 2017 hoping to reach a decision to convene a high-level meeting to conclude a potential international instrument(s) or Treaty in 2019 aimed at preventing the misappropriation of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.

African countries are primary beneficiaries of this treaty because the modern intellectual property system does not adequately protect traditional knowledge systems or local inventions based on genetic resources/traditional cultural artifacts/materials.

In his statement, Otafiire told the Assembly that a potential treaty to protect genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore, at the international level is a priority issue for Uganda in the WIPO. “Traditional knowledge systems in Uganda have long been used to ensure access to alternative medicines, promote sustainable agricultural production and conserve the environment,” he said.

The WIPO has been a key development partner for Uganda in the field of intellectual property undertaking technical assistance activities to encourage innovation and protection of intellectual property including; technical support to Uganda in upgrading and maintenance of the Intellectual Property Automated System (IPAS); training and capacity building for human resources; support in the form a regional workshop on intellectual property and traditional knowledge for economic development.

WIPO member states have a task to negotiate the renewal of the mandate of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC), which expired in June 2017. The IGC has always held a renewable two-year mandate since it commenced text based negotiations in 2009.  It will be particularly important for African countries, as key demanders for protection of genetic resources and traditional knowledge to ensure that the General Assembly agrees to convene a diplomatic conference to conclude a treaty in 2019.

The WIPO General Assembly will also decide, among other things, the approval of the program and budget of the organization for the 2018/2019 biennium; furthering discussions for potential treaties to protect broadcasting organizations (the Broadcast Treaty) and simplifying the international applications for industrial designs – the Design Law Treaty (DLT).

In other discussions, the WIPO General Assembly will discuss reports from various committees. At the WIPO General Assembly each committee reports on its activities over the past year. Of particular importance to Uganda and other developing countries is the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) as well as the Committee on the Law of Patents.

In a related development, on Monday, several officers were elected to various offices. Uganda’s Mr. Bemanya Twebaze, the Registrar General of Uganda Registration Service Bureau, was elected the President of the Paris Union Assembly, and Ambassador Christopher Onyanga Aparr, the Permanent Representative of Uganda to the United Nations Office in Geneva, is serving as the Second Vice Chairman of the Coordination Committee.



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