On Tuesday, October 24, 2023, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Department of Commerce, published a notice in the Federal Register on Formal Tribal Consultation on World Intellectual Property Organization Intergovernmental Committee Negotiations.

In the upcoming consultation, the USPTO will seek tribal input on how to best protect genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and traditional cultural expressions as they are being discussed at the World Intellectual Property Organization. The Federal Register notice provides details for online webinars to be held in January 2024. Two of the four webinars will be for federally recognized Tribal Nations and two will be for state-recognized Tribes, tribal members, Native Hawaiians, and inter-tribal organizations. The USPTO also invites related written comments, to be submitted by February 23, 2024.

Webinar Dates: The webinars for federally recognized Tribal Nations and their proxies will be held on Tuesday, January 16, 2024, from 3 to 5 p.m. ET and Wednesday, January 17, 2024, from 3 to 5 p.m. ET. The webinars for state-recognized Tribes and other tribal members, Native Hawaiians and their representatives, and inter-tribal organizations, will be held on Friday, January 19, 2024, from 3 to 5 p.m. ET and Tuesday, January 23, 2024, from 3 to 5 p.m. ET. Register in advance to participate in one of these webinars at: https://cvent.me/​bZRP3L.

More details available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2023/10/24/2023-23386/formal-tribal-consultation-on-wipo-igc-negotiations.

Engaging USPTO on Our Terms:

The Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, hosted an online gathering to inform and support tribal leaders and others who intend to consult with or provide commentary to the USPTO.

Watch a recording of that discussion here:

About Consultation on Tribal Intellectual Property Issues

The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) applaud the decision to hold this long overdue consultation.Since 2016, NCAI, represented by NARF, has called on the federal government to engage in government-to-government consultation on tribal intellectual property issues. These efforts included NCAI passing resolutions in both 2016 and 2022 calling for immediate and direct consultations regarding international negotiations happening at the World Intellectual Property Organization (Resolution PHX-16-054 and Resolution SAC-22-038).

“The United States federal government needs to ensure free, prior, and informed consent from Tribal Nations as it develops positions to be taken in these international negotiations around genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and cultural expressions. Tribes have sovereign rights and authority as the holders and guardians of these aspects of our cultures that must be respected by the United States. The upcoming consultations are a necessary step to ensure that these legal and moral requirements are met,” said NCAI Executive Director Larry Wright, Jr.

“The United States Patent and Trademark Office has taken positions in negotiations at the World Intellectual Property Organization more aligned with corporations that want to access and use Indigenous Peoples’ genetic resources, traditional knowledge, and cultural expressions than with the United States’ role as trustee for Tribal Nations. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their cultural and intellectual property, as well as the obligation for the United States to take measures to protect those rights. It is good that the United States is living up to its obligation to consult with Tribes, and the concern now is to ensure that the consultation is meaningful and actually impacts the United States’ negotiation positions,” explained NARF Staff Attorney Sue Noe.

Learn more about NARF’s work to protect Indigenous intellectual property →

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