The deadline for nominating candidates for the position of Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization is fast approaching. The last day to nominate a candidate is Friday, December 6, 2013. Currently there are only three candidates nominated, they are: (1) Francis Gurry, the current Director General of WIPO; (2) Geoffrey Onyeama, who grew up in England, was educated at Oxford and is the current Deputy Director General of WIPO for the Development Sector; and (3) Ambassador Alfredo Suescum, a U.S. educated lawyer who has served as Ambassador to the United Nations on behalf of Panama, as well as holding numerous other diplomatic posts. Suescum is currently Chairman of the TRIPS Council in the World Trade Organization (WTO).
In what should otherwise be a relatively benign news story, the election of the next Director General of WIPO is taking on a life almost of its own. Over the last several administrations WIPO has been plagued with scandals. For example, Kamil Idris, Director General of WIPO from from 1997 to 2008, was forced to step down a year early from the position due to allegations of misconduct.
When Idris was under attack, then U.S. Ambassador Warren Tichenor, was quoted in the New York Times as follows: “The member states and the employees of WIPO deserve to have an organization that is led with the highest professional and ethical standards…” In a 2008 interview published in Managing IP, Roland Grossenbacher, then chairman of the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organization, explained: “WIPO is in a very, very difficult situation right now and needs someone willing and capable over the next years, to handle the operational business, not by rhetoric but by action. That includes effective technical cooperation with developing countries. Sound operational management has been lost under the leadership of Kamil Idris but it has to be restored.”
Mary Kissel, a Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member, asked a simple question in this video segment of Fox News Editor-at Large George Russell: Why is Australia re-nominating Francis Gurry to head WIPO? Frankly, this is an excellent question. One might also ask why the Obama Administration has failed to back an alternative candidate despite being implored to do so by Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle?
A source with knowledge close to the situation has also told me that “there will be other shoes to drop; the DNA episode is not the last.”
To the outside world Gurry is affable, knowledgeable and a perfect ambassador of the benefits of intellectual property. Internally, however, he hides things and fosters conflict so that he can rise to the moment and come to the rescue. Indeed, aside from the various scandals WIPO appears to be an extremely dysfunctional workplace, which can only hinder the mission.
UPDATED 2: Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 at 9:20pm Eastern.
Francis Gurry, the Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), finds himself in a precarious position this week as news has surfaced about a bizarre and presumably illegal acquisition of DNA samples from WIPO employees. Gurry has already been under pressure from Member States because he has been unable to pass a budget for WIPO, which many attribute to being uncomfortable with the cozy relationship seen between Gurry and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Gurry signed a deal to set up a WIPO office in Moscow, which reportedly has rubbed at least some Member States the wrong way.
While Member States may be unhappy about Gurry’s ties to Putin, the newly uncovered DNA scandal raises serious questions and could potentially lead to Gurry’s undoing. Already calls are being made for him to be removed from his post.
In the meantime, there is important business to be done by WIPO.
Kicking off the 51st meeting of Member States, Gurry took the opportunity to both look back and look forward with his address to the WIPO Assemblies. Gurry told the audience that “[t]he twelve months since the last Assemblies have seen many positive results for the Organization.” He would go on to point out that global IP systems continue to remain strong, saying: “the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid System for the international registration of marks and the Hague System for the international registration of designs, continued to experience growth levels that out-perform the world economy.” Gurry also discussed the continued progress being made relative to technical systems that connect the IP Offices of Member States.
WIPO Director General Francis Gurry (Photo: WIPO/E.Berrod)
Earlier today the Fifty-First Series of Meetings of the Assemblies of the Member States of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) began in Geneva, Switzerland, and will run through October 2, 2013. This meeting of Member States comes at a time of internal unrest for WIPO. On September 19, 2013 several members of the House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the U.S. government to oppose the re-election of WIPO Director General Francis Gurry who is serving the final year of his first six-year term.
On July 18, 2013, at the US Chamber of Commerce, the Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC) hosted an event, “India: International Outlier on IP.” The two-part event began with Congressmen John Larson (D – CT) and Erik Paulsen (R – MN) giving keynote speeches about the concerning status of IP law in India. A panel discussion followed consisting of David Torstensson, Senior Consultant, Pugatch Consilium; Manisha Desai, PhD, Assistant General Patent Counsel, Eli Lilly; and Michael Schelsinger, Counsel, International Intellectual Property Alliance.
The GIPC previously released its International IP index, Measuring Momentum, on December 11, 2012. Pugatch Consilium ranked nations based upon intellectual property rights (IPR) to provide a global overview. Various factors included patent enforcement, fairness of compulsory licensing, copyright term of protection, and membership to international treaties. Not surprisingly, Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) comprised the bottom of the list. While most would expect China to be ranked last, India was ranked last overall and in almost all individual categories, including Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), Research and Development Spending, and Membership and Ratification of International Treaties. David Torstensson of Pugatch Consilium noted that while IPR in China are lacking, some legislation does in fact exist, which helped its ranking. Notably, India is the only country in the study that is not a signatory for any international IP treaties, such as the Patent Law Treaty (PLT) and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Internet Treaties.
Earlier today Cornell University, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released the rankings for the 2013 Global Innovation Index. Switzerland and Sweden remain #1 and #2 respectively, but the United States jumped 5 places to #5.
According to the report, the United States benefited from a strong education base, with many top-ranked universities. Additionally, over the last year the U.S. has seen significant increases in software spending and employment in knowledge-intensive industries. The U.S. was last in the top 5 of the Global Innovation Index in 2009, when it placed #1.
There was also good news for innovation in general, which is alive and well despite the global economic crisis, which drags on. The report explains that “[r]esearch and development spending levels are surpassing 2008 levels in most countries and successful local hubs are thriving.”
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