Ongoing protection of biocultural heritage
By Marta Garcia
The Peruvian Anti-Biopiracy Commission, chaired by the local PTO (INDECOPI) has recently identified a case of illegal access to Peruvian genetic resources involving a patent application filed before the Chinese PTO (SIPO) related to a method for grafting and propagating Plukenetia huayllabambana.
The Plukenetia huayllabambana is a plant endemic to the Peruvian province of Rodríguez de Mendoza, within the Amazonian Region.
The Anti-Biopiracy Commission tracks and identifies biopiracy cases, i.e. unauthorized and uncompensated access and use of biological resources or traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples by third parties, and opposes patent applications and/or challenges granted patents abroad involving biopiracy.
In the Plukenetia huayllabambana case, the Anti-Biopiracy Commission concluded that the patent application constituted a biopiracy case after verifying that the applicant did not have an access contract signed by the competent national authority. After sending a formal complaint to the patent owner, the commission is now preparing the necessary documents to initiate an opposition procedure.
The Peruvian Anti-Biopiracy Commission recently reported the favorable resolution of 15 biopiracy cases related patent requests abroad that involved genetic resources from Peru.
As an example, six patents in Japan, Korea and Europe involving maca root (a plant native to the Peruvian Andean provinces of Junín and Cerro de Pasco) for the manufacture of medicines for the treatment of osteoporosis, sleeping disorders, and testosterone deficiency increase, were invalidated. Other cases related to yacón, pasuchaca (plants native to the Andes used to treat diabetes), sachainchi and camucamu (plants native to the Amazon rainforest areas of Iquitos, Tarapoto and Pucallpa) were either abandoned by the applicants or rejected by the respective patent offices after the Anti-Biopiracy Commission opposed to the patent applications.
Peru, which ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity in force since 1993, has developed access and benefit sharing procedures mainly to prevent biopiracy primarily through the Anti Biopiracy Commission. Therefore, its strategy has been mainly defensive.
Peru is one of the first 50 countries to ratify the Nagoya Protocol, which entered into force on October 12, 2014. This international agreement focuses on sharing the benefits of genetic resources in a fair and equitable way, by appropriate access to genetic resources, transfer of relevant technologies, and funding.
The Nagoya Protocol establishes a legally binding framework that determines how third parties can obtain access to the country’s genetic resources and to the traditional knowledge associated with these resources.
Additionally, it explains how the benefits arising from the use of these genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge will be shared. These benefits could be financial or non-monetary, such as the involvement of locals in research and development projects and the sharing of research findings.