Asean group seeks more protection for ‘traditional’ IPRs
The government and the private sector must redouble efforts to protect the intellectual property rights—which ultimately translate to economic rights—of traditional communities like indigenous groups so that their local resources are not improperly exploited.
To this end, the head of the Asean Intellectual Property Association has called for greater awareness toward and greater legal protection for the diverse and rich local culture which is in danger of being tapped for profit by external parties like foreign corporations.
“What we need to do is make people aware that we have a large trove of assets—like traditional medicines, bio resources, local products, handicraft, and even cultural resources like music —that can and should be protected by intellectual property laws,” said lawyer Aleli Angela Quirino, who heads the Asean IPA.
In an interview, she said there were Philippine laws in place that were used to protect more conventional intellectual properties but more work should be done to inform the public that this protection could also be extended to non-traditional sectors like indigenous peoples.
“In the case of indigenous peoples or local tribes, for example, they have very rich cultures and long histories of traditional practices, including local medicine,” Quirino explained. “They have to be made aware that these could also be protected—and not just their usual physical ancestral domain — so that they can reap economic benefits from it.”
She cited the case of the local Ilang-Ilang flower which had been patented by a French company as one of the ingredients for its fragrance products.
Quirino, who works for the Accra law office specializing in intellectual property issues, said the government also had to get involved in promoting awareness.
To this end, the Asean IPA is set to hold a three-day conference among regional intellectual property rights practitioners at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Pasig City on April 20-22 to highlight the concerns and challenges facing the sector.
“Protecting intellectual property rights is a global concern, especially in this day and age, where technology evolves very rapidly and information moves very fast,” Quirino said. “But the challenge of protecting traditional IPR is especially important in the Asean region because the countries involved are very rich in traditional resources.”
“We have to protect these, so that the right people benefit from them,” she said.
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