WIPO expert committee deliberates on road map to protect traditional cultural expressions

From 19-23 July 2010, WIPO has convened an Intersessional Working Group to examine a WIPO document on 'Revised Provisions for the Protection of Traditional Cultural Expressions/Expressions of Folklore' (WIPO/GRTKF/IC/17/4). Although this document prepared by WIPO (reflecting the proposals and comments made by IGC participants) is entitled 'Policy Objectives and Core Principles', the 'substantive principles' section comprising of 11 draft articles includes inter alia, provisions on 'subject matter of protection, beneficiaries, acts of misappropriation, exceptions and limitations, term of protection and formalities' thus anticipating the establishment of an international instrument for the protection of traditional cultural expressions (folklore).

The 16th session of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) established a mandate for the creation of Intergovernmental Working Groups (IWGs). The 16th IGC decided that the function of IWGs:

are to support and facilitate the negotiations of the IGC. The IWGs shall provide legal and technical advice and analysis, including, where appropriate, options and scenarios for consideration of the IGC. The IWGs shall report to the IGC on the outcomes of their work and submit recommendations and texts relating to the discussion in the IGC.

The composition of these IWGs is determined as follows:

Participation in the IWGs shall be open to all Member States and accredited observers. Each Member State and accredited observer shall be represented by one technical expert who shall participate in his/her personal capacity.

The first meeting of the IWG will focus on traditional cultural expressions, and the second and the third IWGs will focus on traditional knowledge and genetic resources.

In preparation for IWG1, the IGC instructed the WIPO secretariat to prepare document 17/4 on 'Revised Provisions for the Protection of Traditional Cultural Expressions/Expressions of Folklore: Policy Objectives and Core Principles" to 'identify drafting proposals and comments made by Committee participants during the sixteenth session and proposals and comments' with specific 'drafting proposals should be attributed in footnotes. Comments made should be reflected, with attribution, in a commentary in the document. The draft should explain clearly how proposed additions, deletions, other amendments and comments have been reflected. Drafting proposals made by observers should be included in the commentary for consideration by Member States'.

On the first day, Savitri Suwansathit (Thailand) was elected as Chair of the IWG. A greater part of the day was devoted to discussions on the objectives and general guiding principles of working document 17/4 revolving around the distinction between 'indigenous peoples' and 'indigenous peoples and communities' and also on the implications of the protection of traditional cultural expressions on the public domain.

At around 4 PM (Geneva time) the expert group devoted its attention to Article 1 of the substantive provisions on the "Subject Matter of Protection".