New WIPO Treaty to Benefit Startups Leveraging Traditional Knowledge

May 26, 2024: The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO Treaty) has adopted a new treaty on intellectual property, genetic resources, and associated traditional knowledge. The WIPO treaty is poised to significantly benefit startups, especially those leveraging the wealth of traditional knowledge and biodiversity from countries like India, a renowned biodiversity hotspot.

For the first time, the global intellectual property framework formally recognizes and protects centuries-old systems of knowledge and wisdom that have underpinned economies, societies, and cultures. This landmark achievement, led by India and other nations of the global South, acknowledges the vital link between local communities and their genetic resources (GRs) and associated traditional knowledge (ATK).

New WIPO Treaty Safeguards Genetic Resources and Fuels Innovation

WIPO Treaty 2024
Startup to gain from WIPO Treaty 2024

Startups stand to gain immensely from this treaty as it aims to safeguard biodiversity while enhancing transparency in the patent system and fostering innovation. By creating a more inclusive intellectual property system, the treaty ensures that innovation continues to be incentivized, benefiting startups across various sectors.

This historic agreement, adopted after more than two decades of negotiations, represents a significant step forward in bridging conflicting paradigms within the IP system and protecting biodiversity. Over 150 countries reached a consensus on this treaty, underscoring its global importance.

Once ratified, the treaty will require contracting parties to implement mandatory disclosure obligations. Patent applicants must disclose the country of origin or source of genetic resources when their claimed inventions are based on these resources or associated traditional knowledge. This measure offers startups additional protection, ensuring that their innovations, rooted in traditional knowledge, are not misappropriated in countries lacking disclosure obligations.

By setting global standards for disclosure of origin, the WIPO treaty creates a robust framework within the IP system, benefiting provider countries of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

Currently, only 35 countries have some form of disclosure obligations, many of which are not mandatory and lack effective enforcement mechanisms. This treaty mandates that all contracting parties, including developed nations, update their legal frameworks to enforce these disclosure obligations.

For startups, this treaty marks the beginning of a new era of collective growth and sustainable innovation. By recognizing and protecting traditional knowledge and biodiversity, the treaty opens up new opportunities for startups to innovate responsibly and sustainably. Entrepreneurs can now develop products and services with greater confidence, knowing that their use of traditional knowledge and genetic resources is safeguarded by international law.

This historic WIPO treaty is set to transform the global IP landscape, ensuring that the contributions of traditional knowledge and biodiversity are acknowledged and protected worldwide. For startups, this means a more secure and transparent environment in which to innovate, leading to a brighter, more inclusive future.

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