WIPO IGC Diplomatic Conference on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge

Closed 3 May 2024

Opened 7 Feb 2024


In May 2024, WIPO will host a Diplomatic Conference on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge. This page includes some useful information about this process.   

We want to hear from anyone interested in international conversations on Indigenous Knowledge (IK) and Intellectual Property (IP), especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Indigenous industry peak bodies, and IP or IK experts.

Key updates:

  • The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will host a Diplomatic Conference on Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge from May 13 to 24, 2024 at its Geneva headquarters.
  • This Diplomatic Conference is the final stage of negotiations and may result in a new international agreement on patent disclosure for applications that contain Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge.

Resources for more information

Frequently asked questions

What is WIPO?

WIPO is the World Intellectual Property Organization; it is a United Nations agency that promotes the protection and use of intellectual property (IP) rights worldwide.

WIPO provides a forum where governments debate and shape IP laws, to adapt them to the changing needs of the global society. WIPO operates international filing systems that make it easier to protect & promote inventions, designs and brands across borders. Their goal is to make IP work for everyone. They also provide cooperation and training programs to enable all countries to use IP for economic, social and cultural development.

IP Australia represents the Australian Government at WIPO forums.

What is the IGC?

It is the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). This WIPO committee negotiates international legal instrument(s) for the protection of Traditional Knowledge (TK), Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCEs) and Genetic Resources (GRs) relating to the IP system.

What is a Diplomatic Conference?

A Diplomatic Conference is a meeting of government representatives from different countries to negotiate and adopt or revise treaties on international issues.

A Diplomatic Conference under WIPO is usually the final stage of negotiations on a specific IP topic after years of preparatory work by WIPO committees and experts. It follows a set of rules of procedure, an agenda and it adopts resolutions and decisions by consensus or vote.

Concluding a treaty negotiation doesn't mean Australia is bound by that treaty. The Government would then need to go through our normal treaty joining processes. 

How are Indigenous Peoples views represented in the WIPO IGC discussions?

Indigenous observers regularly attend WIPO IGC meetings and have contributed to the negotiations. Representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and others can be invited to the Conference as observers. WIPO has an application process for ad hoc observers to attend the Diplomatic Conference, applications closed on 12 February 2024.

What is being discussed at the Diplomatic Conference and how does it relate to patents?

The Diplomatic Conference is discussing potential new international rules in the patent system for applications relating to inventions that have used Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge. The new rules could mean applicants have to disclose the source of the Genetic Resource or the Associated Traditional Knowledge used, where a country is a member of that treaty.

The aim is to enhance the efficacy, transparency, and quality of the patent system, and prevent patents from being granted erroneously for inventions that are not novel or inventive with regard to Genetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge associated with Genetic Resources.

What is a patent?

A patent is a registered right to protect a new invention. Patents can protect different types of inventions such as devices, substances, methods, and processes. For an invention to be patentable it must be new, useful, inventive, and a suitable subject matter. Human beings and artistic creations cannot be patented.

A granted patent provides exclusive commercial rights to the applicant, giving them the freedom to licence someone else to manufacture their invention on agreed terms, and the right to stop others from manufacturing, using or selling their invention in Australia without their permission. A standard patent lasts for up to 20 years (or up to 25 years for pharmaceutical substances).

Australian patents only provide protection in Australia. Patents like other IP rights are jurisdictional in nature, and if you want protection in other countries, you’ll need to apply for it there.

Why might disclosure be helpful?

Greater transparency in the patent system internationally can make it easier to identify when Australian Genetic Resources and Associated Traditional Knowledge are used in inventions. This mechanism is intended to complement the existing international framework and is an important step in the WIPO IGCs work on protecting Indigenous Knowledge.

We want to hear your views

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ views underpin our work on Indigenous Knowledge.

We welcome your views on patent disclosure and the WIPO Diplomatic Conference, and examples of patents or collaborations that may encounter disclosure of Genetic Resources or Associated Traditional Knowledge.

We invite you to provide a submission before 3 May 2024.

Your submissions will help guide us in the negotiations, and support general policy development on patent disclosure.

Any personal information provided to IP Australia will be collected, used and disclosed consistently with the Privacy Notice.

We will also draw on IP Australia's previous public consultations on potential changes to the IP system to better protect Indigenous Knowledge (IK), including on patent disclosure. For more information see Enhance and Enable Indigenous Knowledge Consultations 2021 and Indigenous Knowledge Consultations 2018-19.

Cover image: “Yuliyin Marradhal Yandhul” meaning Past, Present and Future; this is a combination of the Ngunnawal and Wiradjuri peoples language groups; Dalmarri Pty LTD, image ©

Disclaimer: The material on this webpage is provided for general information only. For further information please see IP Australia's Disclaimer which applies to all content on our website.


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