Proposal for the protection of intellectual property rights on Amazonian vernacular knowledge
Dr Alvaro Zerda of the National University of Colombia presented this paper.
• To develop a sui generis institution that recognizes the intellectual property rights of the indigenous communities over their vernacular knowledge related to the use of medicinal plants, or some kind of medicinal practices, which had been proved as useful, effective, and secure.
• To establish a fund for the distribution of royalties, common for the different ethnic communities that share the same habitat. This would recognize the potential development of new existing medicines in the indigenous communities and it would also serve as an incentive for different communities to co-operate in collective projects, so avoiding competition for priority in achieving recognition.
• The royalty payments may be made part in money to help with the community’s needs, and part by capacity building in the community, enabling individuals who possess vernacular knowledge (shamans, bush doctors, and so on) to also master western knowledge and become “cultural amphibians”, so giving the scientific dimension to their knowledge.
• In this sense, communities should have direct participation in bioprospection and development of new products that make use of their knowledge, from the moment of project design and in the subsequent stages. In this way, it is possible to contribute to the construction of a bridge between the western scientific structures and the indigenous communities.
• Finally, an international regulation mechanism must be established, so that transactions may be conducted between a particular community in one country and entrepreneurial or scientific organizations in another country. The existence of an international authority to represent the interests of the different participating actors is also justified by the fact that many times the State may have interests that do not necessarily match the national public interest, nor that of indigenous communities.