Genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore

Genetic resources (GR) and the associated traditional knowledge (ATK) of indigenous peoples and local communities are important components of biodiversity. They can serve as a starting point for innovations in different areas. For example, traditional knowledge about the healing properties of a particular plant can facilitate the research and development of new medicinal substances. GR/ATK also play an important role in the fields of cosmetics, agriculture and food, as well as in biotechnology in general.


There are many overlaps between intellectual property and the topic of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore. Developing countries in particular are calling for measures to be introduced in the area of intellectual property in order to better protect GR/ATK.


WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) is particularly concerned with this topic. The 2022 WIPO General Assembly decided to convene a diplomatic conference by the end of 2024 to adopt a new agreement on intellectual property and GR/ATK.


More information on the diplomatic conference (Geneva, 13 to 24 Mai 2024)


What are genetic resources?

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity defines the term ‘genetic resources’ as genetic material of actual or potential value. This includes any material of plant, animal, microbial or other origin that contains functional units of heredity.


What is traditional knowledge?

There is currently no internationally recognised definition of the term ‘traditional knowledge’. In general, it can be described as the knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples and local communities in developing and industrial countries which these communities have created, improved and adapted over generations in line with their changing needs and environmental influences and passed on to subsequent generations, frequently in oral form.