Coming Home

Fair and equitable

Oluwatobiloba (Tobi) Moody crouching in grass and looking up.

Photography by Greg Black

Oluwatobiloba (Tobi) Moody, PhD’16 (Law) has weathered the global COVID-19 pandemic in Abuja, Nigeria, where he has overseen the establishment of the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO’s) first Sub-Saharan African External Office in the country of his birth.

But when he returns to Canada next year to take up his post in the Faculty of Law as the university’s National Scholar in International Economic Law and as an assistant professor of law, Dr. Moody plans to draw from his varied experiences in the field to develop a course on the global challenges of intellectual property (IP) law.

In addition to teaching courses on patent law and property law, he will concentrate his research efforts in applying a Canadian lens to his past work exploring the protection of traditional knowledge within Indigenous societies.

As an assistant legal officer within the Traditional Knowledge Division at WIPO’s Geneva headquarters, Dr. Moody co-ordinated the process of negotiations among WIPO member states on the crafting of an international law to effectively protect traditional knowledge.

“The cultural expressions of Indigenous People – their dances, songs, ceremonies, stories – are an important source of their heritage, and sometimes the commercialization of those aspects could be seen as misappropriated in the IP space, [such as] a sacred design used on a carpet that could be offensive to an Indigenous group because people walk on it,” explains Dr. Moody, whose doctoral thesis was entitled “WIPO and the reinforcement of the Nagoya Protocol,” a supplementary agreement to the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity that addresses the “fair and equitable” sharing of benefits from genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.

Indigenous knowledge conversations, he says, also involve the use of resources “that define Indigenous groups who have adapted traditional methods to their environment and hold a strong connection [to] and ownership over such resources. This could be problematic where researchers or companies are able to acquire rights over the knowledge, such as how plants are used to treat diseases, and utilize the same to develop products for the market without compensating or recognizing the role of Indigenous Peoples.”

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