KIPI TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE UNIT
The Traditional Knowledge (TK )and Genetic resources (GR)unit, abbreviated as “TK & GR - UNIT” was established at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI), in March 2009, to specifically address issues of intellectual property rights relating to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources for indigenous and local communities practicing traditional life styles, their traditional cultural expressions, access and benefit sharing issues, Bonn and Akwe-Kon guidelines, disclosure requirements and other related matters within the national and international framework. This is due to the fact that issues relating to intellectual property, genetic resources and traditional knowledge have gained prominence at the national, regional and international levels. Non-recognition and inadequate protection of traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources as an aspect of intellectual property rights has contributed to biopiracy and issuance of bad patents. Kenya has negatively been affected in this respect. Subsequently, KIPI, being a national Industrial Property Institute mandated to deal with patent issues is compelled to take a lead in formulating national strategies to combat biopiracy and bad patents. In order to address these issues related to traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources, bad patents, disclosure of origin of genetic material and biopiracy, a Tradition Knowledge and genetic resources Unit (TK& GR-UNIT) was established in the Patent Division.
The primary functions of the TK & GR - UNIT are to:
i) Develop a traditional knowledge database for Kenya,
ii) Develop a simplified classification system of Kenya’s traditional knowledge products and processes based on the hierarchical structure of the International Patent Classification,
iii) Develop office guidelines on avoiding inappropriate intellectual property claims by placing the information in the Public domain,
iv) Ascertain the potential TK holder’s have as individuals or communities, and
v) Create awareness in local communities on the importance of traditional knowledge and genetic resources.
3. The Role of TK-UNIT is to:
i) Promote documentation and preservation of Kenya’s Traditional Knowledge,
ii) Provide a means of patent search procedures and identification of prior art,
iii) Identify individual and communities that entitled to sharing of benefits and exclusive rights on accessed TK &GR,
iv)Serve as a mechanism for obtaining protection of traditional knowledge, and
v)Provide the means for recording the existence of traditional knowledge over which positive rights have been recognized.
In order to develop the Traditional Knowledge Data Base, the Unit intends to liaise inter alia with the National Museums of Kenya, Associations of Traditional Medicine Practitioners, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Department of Culture, Anthropology Departments in various Universities, Institute of Primate Research, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), appropriate non-governmental and community-based organizations, and other relevant stakeholders. To effectively discharge its duties, the Unit consults written and published works in traditional medicinal plants, traditional instruments, eminent traditional knowledge holders and other instrument of the Kenyan people.
4. Specific Activities:
Currently, the TK & GR – Unit is collaborating with other stakeholders to:
a) Identify and create a database for alleged and proven piracy of Traditional Knowledge and associated Genetic resources in Kenya. The unit is required to verify various allegations, for instance that Alfalfa originated from Kenya and that was pirated. Similarly, the Unit is investigating allegations relating to biopiracy of animal genetic resources like misappropriation of genes of the Boran cattle and extremophiles from Lake Bogoria, among other emerging cases.
b) Identify and create a data base for allegedly “pirated” traditional knowledge based products, processes and services like Kikoi, Kiondo, Akala Shoes, Maasai Barefoot Technology, and Mursik among others.
The purpose of this initiative is to improve efficiency and service delivery in the Institute. As a result, the TK& GR-UNIT has embarked on the establishment of the Traditional Knowledge Database as a priority for Kenya in liaison with the ICT Division. All stake holders are encouraged to participate.
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