18 Nov 2008

American expert highlights intellectual property challenges

4:09 pm on 18 November 2008

An American intellectual property expert, Dr David Martin, says his organisation knows of thousands of cases of multi-national companies patenting traditional remedies from the Pacific.

Dr Martin, the CEO of intellectual property firm M-Cam, says the primary function of current international intellectual property rules is to protect the rights of multi-nationals.

"Our organisation has identified over 3,000 cases where traditional knowledge from remedies, indigenous traditional healing, have been patented and commercialised by multi-national corporations and institutions outside of the Pacific with no benefit flowing back to the Pacific."

Dr Martin, who recently visited Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Fiji and Samoa, is encouraging governments in the region to set up trusts to register traditional knowledge.

He says the trusts could be set up under existing contract law and would be a more effective way of protecting local knowledge than the inclusion of traditional knowledge clauses in free trade agreements.