We now live in a world where knowledge, innovation and creativity are the driving forces.
Consultant at the World Intellectual Property Office, Mary Anne Richards, made this observation today while speaking on traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression and genetic resources at Baobab Towers, Warrens, Michael.
Richards said: “It is a world of opportunities if you can see and identify areas of opportunity. Long ago if you wanted to have business you would have to have a factory, you would have to import material, you would have to have money to make money.
“Now people actually sit in their homes and make a living. Talents and skills we paid no respect to are now seen as means for people providing for their families. They are even developing businesses that employ other people.”
She recalled a case where a non-Trinidadian had went to Trinidad and started making chocolates as a hobby in her kitchen, but over time it developed into a profit-making business. Richards further recalled that when the non-national began her business she was unaware that Trinidad produced high quality chocolate and had imported chocolate from Belgium.
Giving her definition of international property, Richards said it embraced anything that the human mind creates.
“It is anything that is first conceptalised in the mind, even if it is only a macaroni pie or a rum punch. You have this image in your mind of the ingredients going into it and of the final product before you make it into a tangible product.
“So as we say it is the invention, it is the technology all those things that first are intangible and then become tangible products. The international property rewards you for your creativity and innovation.
“If you make the best macaroni pie and the best rum punch and you only share it out, you are a very fantastic host and a very generous person. The day you put a trade mark on it, you bottle it, and you start selling it you have rights, because when you have IP rights you are the sole person who can determine how your product is to be used,” Richards explained.
She stressed that if someone made a product another individual has to gain the permission of the manufacturer to use it. Richards pointed out that in the case of traditional knowledge, it took a long time because it seemed to be in the public domain and free to anyone.
The consultant added: “So I can walk into Barbados and take any product, plant or recipe and I could use it and you could not say anything because it was suppose to be in the public domain. In the late 1990s we started having a lot coming into the fore of misappropriation of traditional knowledge, and some of them indigenous of our community and endemic to Barbados or Jamaica.
“How could you possibly have a pharmaceutical product made from that plant when permission was not given. That was what was happening. There were many cases. Developing countries were saying how can you use my product and become a millionaire from producing the product and yet it gives me zero returns.”
The consultant told the gathering that people began to take traditional knowledge seriously, adding that traditional knowledge encompassed a broad range of subject matter, but in the Caribbean the word often used is culture. (NC)