Benefit-sharing of Marine Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property Rights

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Prof. Abbe Brown (University of Aberdeen) gave a remote presentation on the intellectual property rights (IPRs) related to the benefit-sharing of marine genetic resources (MGRs). She firstly clarified that MGRs come from all living marine organisms, whether of plant or animal origin. She then explained that IPRs confer exclusive rights to control specific activities, for a limited time, with some exceptions, in a specific country (ex. being able to reproduce a story, but without having control over the physical book). With regards to marine genetic resources, this could apply for instance to drugs, special diving equipment or DNA analysis equipment. In this respect, IPRs become increasingly relevant as we move from the physical to the informational realm and develop technical solutions to problems. In terms of the scope of rights, Prof. Brown highlighted that IPRs can cover a single country or a specific region (ex. Andean Pact), but that often IP owners have a portfolio of the equivalent rights in different countries. She emphasised that IPRs are relevant to ABNJ, as many key activities affecting ABNJ take place within national borders. Examples of an application of IPRs relevant to ABNJ are, for instance, patents, copyrights, or databases. Royalties resulting from the use of patented subject matter and the sale of these products would have a positive impact on benefit-sharing. However, there are several possible negative impacts that need to be considered, for instance: when private control through patents are obtained too early in the pipeline from raw material to commercialised product, this might lead to limiting the use for research; private control of information in databases can also result in limiting the use for research and education; control over the software which operates
databases might lead to the relevant sectors having to pay for access; and finally if a particular technology is required for special activities, such as deep seabed mining, for instance, Intellectual Property (IP) owners can have power over license holders and the delivery of benefits. In terms of the BBNJ process, Prof. Brown recommends to consider the disclosure of origin and source of MGRs to be done through patent offices without links to the validity of rights, explore what is meant by open access, open source and place of patents for benefit-sharing, and clarify in the future BBNJ Instrument how benefit-sharing will work with IP.
For more information on IPRs, see:,, or


ConferenceEnhancing the Knowledge Base for Cross-Sectoral Management
and Ocean Governance in ABNJ of the Southeast Pacific

Bibliographical note

The STRONG High Seas project is part of the International Climate Initiative (IKI; The Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.


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