U.N. body embraces indigenous ideas

UNITED NATIONS, April 27 (UPI) -- The United Nations' agency for intellectual property rights has moved to ensure indigenous peoples' ownership of their own varied cultural creations.

"The voice and experience of indigenous and local communities have long been a vital contribution," said Dr. Kamil Idris, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, announcing the new program at a WIPO gathering in Geneva.

"This mechanism meets a long-standing need to provide practical support for representatives of these communities to participate actively in the process of establishing international standards to prevent the misappropriation of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions."

After seven years of consultations with over 60 communities around the world, the fund was formed in October 2005 by WIPO's Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge, and Folklore. Under the program, a nine-person advisory board will administer and distribute a voluntary fund to support and foster indigenous works with the help of local observers, over 130 of whom have been accredited.

This week, the Swedish International Biodiversity Program and the Government of France announced the initial contributions of $67,500 and $25,000 euros respectively.

Merrill Matthews, resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Innovation, highlighted the impact of intellectual property protection on developing countries in a World Intellectual Property Day interview for an intellectual property news Web site Wednesday.

"People critical of intellectual property rights often claim those rights hurt people in developing nations; nothing could be further from the truth," said Matthews. "Developing nations are filled with artists, authors, scientists and innovative companies that face real threats from counterfeiting and piracy."