Johanna von Braun and Sabine Zajderman (Natural Justice) attended the Expert Meeting on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) and Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) from 5-9 September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting was organized by the ABS Capacity Development Initiative for Africa (ABS Initiative) in cooperation with the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity Conservation.
This was the first meeting discussing ABS implementation in light of the Nagoya Protocol and its links to IPRs in the African context. The workshop aimed to provide a dialogue platform for representatives from African countries and international IPR experts to explore the challenges of linking ABS and IPRs in a coherent manner when implementing ABS at the national and sub-regional levels. Concrete practical experiences on ABS cases linked to IPRs were presented and formed the basis of intensive discussions.
During the course of the week, participants were briefed on: (i) the Nagoya Protocol on ABS, with a special focus on the interlinkages between ABS and IPRs and their significance for the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in domestic and sub-regional policies and regulations; and (ii) the process and status of negotiations under the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding IPR aspects related to ABS. They then reflected on intellectual property aspects and considerations that will have to be taken into account in the development and implementation of ABS policies and regulations at national and sub-regional levels while discussing the development of effective institutional coordination mechanisms between the relevant competent national and international authorities. Also thoroughly examined were the practicality of different intellectual property instruments used along the value chain, research, and/or product development process of genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, particularly Prior Informed Consent (PIC), Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) and the granting of access permits.
On the last day on the meeting, a calendar of ABS- and IP-related events and meetings was set up with the view to prepare the African Group for the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 11) in October 2012. The meeting ended with a visit to the Ethiopian Institute of Biodiversity Conservation, formerly known the Plant Genetic Resources Centre, which safeguards Africa’s oldest and largest gene bank and, since its inception in 1976, has accomplished remarkable work in exploration, collection, and conservation of plant genetic resources.