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Most of the international dialogue about traditional knowledge has taken place within the context of an intellectual property framework with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as the primary facilitator of the discussion. Following more than a decade of dialogue, the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (WIPO IGC) has been given until the Fall of 2011 to come up with something concrete. Due to the intersection between traditional knowledge and intellectual property, the resulting text is likely to be a significant development for international intellectual property law.

Developing countries have long advocated for international protection for traditional knowledge while developed countries have resisted movement on the issue. The duration of protection is one of the more contentious issues in the traditional knowledge debate. While developing countries and indigenous groups have expressed a preference for an indefinite term of protection, the developed countries have resisted engagement on such topics as premature. If the demands of the developing countries are met, there is a strong possibility that an international instrument to protect traditional knowledge will provide for perpetual protection.