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Biodiversity and intellectual property rights

Conference on 17 June 2010, Paris

Following an inaugural session in February 2010, the conference has launched a new centre for the study of biodoversity and ecosystems, exploring how international agreements in the field of biodiversity and intellectual property can co-exist in a context of effective global governance.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Biodiversity and intellectual property rights

International agreements on biodiversity and intellectual property – as well as agreements covering trade and agriculture – typify issues of the interface between different sets of international regulations, and the thinking behind them. They also highlight issues ranging from the ownership of genetic resources to conservation and the protection of traditional knowledge and skills, plus key questions relating to the application of different judicial and political systems, and the potential for conflict or synergies in practice. Is this a deliberate strategy, or a symptom of inadequate international coordination? Can we learn from the current experience, for enhanced convergence and efficiency?

‘I have engaged with this debate for ten years, and nothing has been resolved,' said Ahmed Abdel Latif, director of the Intellectual Property and Technology programme at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD). Latif cited June 16 1980 as a key milestone in the debate: on this date, the US Supreme Court authorized patents for living organisms, providing a launch-pad for today's biodiversity industry.

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Professor of International Relations at the Brussels Free University (ULB) evoked the difficulties inherent in the definition and implementation of a system of global governance aimed at establishing balance and shared or distributed areas of responsibility between different international agreements.