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INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION ADDENDUM TO BIODIVERSITY AGREEMENT,

Executive Summary

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY PROTECTION ADDENDUM TO BIODIVERSITY AGREEMENT, signed by President Clinton April 21, is supported by the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Industry groups believe that the treaty's conservation objectives can be met through economic incentives protected via an "interpretive statement" that was added by the U.S. Industry opposed the treaty last year, and President Bush did not sign the Convention on Biological Diversity in Rio de Janeiro on the grounds that it did not ensure protection of patents and intellectual property rights ("The Pink Sheet" June 29, 1992, T&G- 13). However, because President Clinton submitted an interpretive statement to the United Nations to stipulate the rights of private parties with respect to intellectual property and technology transfer, the erstwhile opponents now support U.S. endorsement of the agreement. Development of the interpretive statement and negotiations between three companies, three environmental groups and the White House in a series of meetings since December 1992 paved the way for U.S. agreement to the treaty. In an April 15 letter to Clinton, Merck Chairman Roy Vagelos, Genentech President and CEO Kirk Raab and Shaman Pharmaceuticals CEO Lisa Conte joined with the heads of the World Wildlife Fund, the World Resources Institute and the Environmental & Energy Study Institute to propose an addendum to the treaty that would clarify its intent and make possible the support of the six parties. The groups discussed the agreement most recently with the State Department on April 13. The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association, the Industrial Biotechnology Association and the Association of Biotechnology Companies also wrote to the White House on April 16 to support the administration's effort. In an April 21 statement applauding Clinton's signing of the biodiversity treaty, Genentech's Raab said the "administration has proved that business interests and environmental protection can be entirely compatible when approached in a spirit of cooperation." The six groups' proposed addendum, which is reported to have formed the basis for the administration's interpretive statement, asserts that "fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of utilization of genetic resources requires [that countries] respect the rights of other member countries and of private parties to the technology that arises out of such utilization of genetic resources." It also states that the treaty's references to "appropriate transfer of relevant technologies" denote technology transfer that proceeds only "with the voluntary participation of the owner of the technology." The proposal also provides that "access to and transfer of technology under this agreement [requires] adequate and effective protection of intellectual property rights" and does not justify "compulsory licensing laws to compel private companies to transfer technology under this agreement." Because technology transfer should be subject to patents and other intellectual property rights, "failure of a member country to extend such protection . . . is considered by the U.S. as being inconsistent with this provision of Article 16" of the convention. The proposal adds that the treaty imposes "no obligation on contracting parties to coerce private companies to share biotechnological research with foreign governments or private companies."
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