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Protecting Sabah traditional knowledge
Published on: Thursday, June 13, 2024
By: Jozie John
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Protecting Sabah traditional knowledge
Fuziah (centre) witnessing the exchange of MOUs between MyIPO and SaBC.
Kota Kinabalu: Malaysia Intellectual Property Corporation (MyIPO) and Sabah Biodiversity Centre (SaBC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to ensure the effective protection and management of traditional and genetic resources in Sabah.

Federal Deputy Domestic Trade and Costs of Living Minister, Senator Fuziah Salleh, said the collaboration is important, stressing that failing to protect the traditional knowledge and biodiversity could result in “bio-piracy”, where outsiders would steal the country’s intellectual property.

“This MoU allows us to jointly preserve, protect, and research our traditional knowledge treasures, and further enhance a digital library.

“Traditional knowledge is an important part of our intellectual property. It is an issue that we have overlooked or have not put enough seriousness into compiling the information and data.

“So, considering Malaysia is among the top 12 with regard to biodiversity, the country is a mega diversity in the world…. It is very timely, and I think, not too late, to start this effort and initiate the effort,” she said after launching a Traditional Knowledge Seminar and Round Table Session in conjunction with the Sabah Biodiversity Day Celebration 2024 at the Hilton Hotel on Tuesday.

She also noted that MyIPO had developed a digital database that brings together traditional knowledge information and genetic resources in Malaysia known as Malaysia Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (MyTKDL).

The MyTKDL system is used by Patent Examining Officers to conduct prior searches and examination of patent applications related to traditional knowledge and genetic resources, as a defensive measure so that someone will not easily ask for patents when others have already done the work prior to that.

 “At the moment we have 8,664 items in our traditional knowledge digital library. We hope that with this understanding there will be a merging of data. Hopefully, we can reach 10,000 by the end of the year.”

According to Fuziah, out of the 8,664 traditional items in the digital library, a total of 1,64 items are from Sabah and Sarawak where 279 documentations are from Sabah.

“But with the merging, we are expecting more,” she said while giving an Ethnobotanical Survey of Medicinal and Other Useful Plants of Muruts in Sabah as an example of among the 279 data documentation in the library.

Fuziah also said the MoU aimed to foster cooperation further so that they could work together, protect together, advocate together, train the community on the understanding of traditional knowledge, and foster the understanding to protect traditional knowledge.

 “The purpose is to gather, collect, and put in one digital library,” she said, adding that efforts to increase the amount of data are still actively underway including cooperation from ministries, departments and government agencies.

Sabah Museum had also been compiling the traditional knowledge as well as putting all the resources together and then putting it into the digital library, she said.

Also present were Deputy Director General (Strategic & Technical) of MyIPO, Ms Yusnieza Syarmila Yusoff and Sabah Biodiversity Centre Director, Dr Gerald Jetony.

Earlier, some 180 local communities participated in the seminar to raise the awareness of the local community on the importance of protecting traditional knowledge and genetic resources. 

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