WIPO recently premiered an awareness-raising video at their Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) Meeting on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore.
The video shared a story of the Yakuanoi people who had long been creating a skin lotion out of ‘suriam’, a plant local to their area. This lotion was traded between tribes in neighboring villages and praised for its natural healing properties. A company discovered the ‘suriam’ plant and quickly realized the antibacterial and unique properties and took it to market in the form of a moisturizer. They filed a patent and trademarked the name ‘Yakuanoi’ for the branding. In the video, a lawyer who had left the Yakuanoi tribe and moved to a city suddenly was aware of the popularity of the product and she used WIPO to do research on the history of the product. With this research the company resubmitted the patent and trademark applications with the Yakuanoi people as co-owners. This created job investment and economic growth in the local community and meant that they were able to benefit from the success of the Yakuanoi moisturizer.
Whilst the story from the video is fictional, it is based off similar cases that highlight the amazing impact collaboration and education can be for the livelihood of indigenous people and the preservation of knowledge that is usually passed from generation to generation. To watch WIPO’s Story of the Yakuanoi, click here.