Global status and trends in intellectual property claims: genomics, proteomics and biotechnology

This paper was prepared as a contribution to analysis and discussion surrounding the development of an international regime on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The paper provides a review and assessment of the implications of trends in relation to genomics, proteomics and biotechnology for the development of an international regime. The results of the review are also relevant to the ongoing work of the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, and other relevant bodies. It is divided into two sections. Section I examines the challenges and potential opportunities represented by the growth of bioinformatics and international electronic transfers of genetic data for the development of an international regime. The review reveals that by the end of 2003 the international DNA sequence depositary known as GenBank contained 30,968,418 DNA sequences from an estimated 130,000 organisms. The review concludes that further attention could be paid to the potential of bioinformatics and "open source" models to provide alternative forms of benefit-sharing directed towards conservation and development objectives and the cost-effective regulation of biopiracy. However, the relevance of bioinformatics to the needs of developing countries and substantive issues surrounding the human rights and ethical dimensions of bioinformatics merit careful analysis and evaluation. Section II considers the challenges involved in tracking intellectual property claims in relation to genetic material on the global level. The review presents the results of a search of available patent publications from 73 national patent offices, four regional patent offices, and WIPO contained within the European Patent Office esp@cenet worldwide database between 1990 and 2003 using a working definition of biotechnology developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. This is followed by a detailed analysis of the implications of patent claims arising from the sequencing of the rice genome. The paper concludes by considering the wider implications of patent activity for the international regime. The paper was also available as an information document UNEP/CBD/WG-ABS/3/INF/4 as presented here.
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