WIPO Member States ask UN to Investigate Francis Gurry

Francis Gurry.

Francis Gurry

Given the recent news of FIFA corruption many in the United States are for the first time getting a real glimpse of just how much of the international community really works. With 14 officials charged with bribery and corruption the members of FIFA still reelected FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who brazenly said that he did nothing wrong and couldn’t be held accountable for any alleged misdeeds of his top lieutenants. To call this entire episode bizarre doesn’t begin to scratch the surface, but this is apparently the way things are done in the international community. What we may call bribery in the United States is viewed simply as the way business is done elsewhere around the world. Ridiculous I know, but no more ridiculous than holding the 2022 World Cup in the dessert where temperatures can reach 120 degrees, which even Blatter acknowledges is too hot for a soccer tournament.

The intellectual property community has become familiar with scandals over the last decade as well, although nothing that rivals the audacity of the reported FIFA scandal to be sure. A little more than a year ago, despite numerous Gurry scandals, without any objection and by consensus, the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) appointed Francis Gurry to a second six-year term of office as Director General of the Organization. Gurry himself originally came to power after 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.

But will Gurry remain at the helm of WIPO for his full six-year term?

Several weeks ago news broke that Päivi Kairamo, Chair of WIPO’s General Assemblies, which is the policy-making body that represents the 188 nations that are WIPO members, requested that the U.N.’s internal watchdog, the Organization of Internal Oversight Service (OIOS), initiate an investigation of Francis Gurry. According to FOX News, which has been the news agency with the best, most detailed information throughout the Gurry scandal sagas, the United Nations has “been asked to look into longstanding charges that Francis Gurry, director general of the World Intellectual Property Organization, ordered break-ins of the offices of his own staffers in 2008 to seek DNA evidence that they wrote anonymous letters against him.”

I have followed the reports and accusations leveled against Gurry, finding myself threatened with both civil and criminal prosecution in Switzerland by a WIPO attorney I can only presume was contacting me at the behest of Gurry himself. What exactly was the alleged crime I committed without ever stepping foot in Switzerland? It seems that at least some at WIPO believe that posting a copy of a public record document that itself alleged serious misconduct by the Director General was criminal. One of many ironies was that the e-mail I received telling me I had broken criminal laws in Switzerland also claimed that everything I had published was old news.

Whether Gurry has engaged in any of the serious misconduct that has been alleged, the threat of criminal and civil prosecution seems to me to have been particularly ill-advised. I was threatened with prosecution the day after I had major surgery, and literally right after my surgeon told me not to make any legal decisions for at least two weeks due to the pain medication I was taking. I decided to simply remove the materials and deal with things later. But once the report of misconduct was removed due to this ill-advised threat, the imagination runs wild. It also makes Gurry look like he has something to hide.

What could be so bad in those allegations that Gurry/WIPO had to demand that they be removed immediately or criminal charges would be pursued? Such an enormous over reaction to the publication of a public record document does, however, fit within the narrative of the overall allegations, at least in my opinion.

To the outside world Gurry is affable, knowledgeable and a perfect ambassador of the benefits of intellectual property. Based on what I have been told by sources familiar with the internal workings of WIPO, Gurry seems to have a separate and distinct personality when dealing with WIPO officials and employees. Internally, Gurry reportedly hides things and fosters conflict so that he can rise to the moment and come to the rescue. I have been told that Gurry runs WIPO as his own fiefdom and is accountable to no one. He operates without seeking input from his senior management team, and in some instances he has acted without seeking input from WIPO Member States even when authorization is essential.

But the real story of these scandals is that not any one would likely be enough to bring Gurry down or bring the organization to its knees, but when you string them together they paint a picture that suggests that WIPO is extraordinarily dysfunctional. The scandals are getting in the way of the laudable and necessary function that WIPO plays in promoting intellectual property worldwide. The fact that no single scandal has been enough to oust Gurry in and of itself is why he still remains at the head of WIPO. Still, this latest request, which appears to be an enormous repudiation of Gurry by WIPO Member States could ultimately bring down the Teflon Director.


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Join the Discussion

7 comments so far.

  • [Avatar for EnolaGay]
    June 10, 2015 02:03 pm

    Cynics, take a step back, at least momentarily.
    Latest (translation from espanol):


    “The FBI says it is investigating the connections of senior WIPO officials and those responsible for trademarks and patents in Brazil to collect evidence to initiate an indictment of the US Attorney General Loretta Lynchel, who takes the case of the FIFA in the United States. For the prosecutor, the arrested individuals used their positions of trust to ask for bribes in exchange for commercial rights, and did so again and again, year after year , tournament after tournament. There remain yet to arrest several involved.”

    I swear, you just could not make this stuff up.

  • [Avatar for Don]
    June 5, 2015 11:35 pm

    There once was a Gurry named Francis
    Who put member states in dumb trances.
    When Sepp Blatter got splattered
    The world thought it mattered
    But when Gurry goes no one will notice.

  • [Avatar for PTD533]
    June 4, 2015 12:36 pm

    Why is Loretta Lynch wasting her time on FIFA? Most Americans don’t even play soccer. Whereas inncocent Americanscontribute about $250 million a year to the annual WIPO kickba… sorry, budget.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    June 4, 2015 10:23 am

    Yet another Anon-

    You obviously made a mistake referring to FOX News, or I suppose you would consider it “faux” only if you don’t watch or are afraid of facts.

    You can believe whatever you want, but everything FOX has reported on the Gurry scandal has proven to be accurate. They clearly have a very well placed source on the inside. But I don’t suppose you would ever know that FOX gets things right if you don’t watch and just listen the the lies of those networks that wish they had an audience.

  • [Avatar for JLim]
    June 4, 2015 01:33 am

    To: Yet another Anon

    Francis, behave. Get back in the Death Star, now.

  • [Avatar for Yet another Anon]
    Yet another Anon
    June 3, 2015 05:05 am

    “According to FOX News, which has been the news agency with the best, most detailed information throughout the Gurry scandal sagas…”

    If Faux News says so, it tends to indicate that Gurry must be, in fact, quite OK.

  • [Avatar for Ralph Cross]
    Ralph Cross
    June 2, 2015 04:50 pm

    How could people like Blatter rise to the top of FIFA, or Idris and Gurry to the top of WIPO? And then be re-elected?

    All too easily, unfortunately.

    The tragedy of international organizations is this: they are the global hubs for the most important things on earth like health, trade, human rights, IP, and so on, and at the same time they are cosy clubs with no accountability. Most delegates vote for whichever candidate offers to fill the trough the most deep. That is why these places are packed with the unqualified bothers, spouses and children of delegates. Or the delegates themselves.

    The only answer is enforced transparency. A completely independent oversight body with full powers to investigate at will.

    So you say, something like the OIOS, maybe.

    Unfortunately, the last head of OIOS left with a very loud blast at the UN for deliberate attempts at undermining her work. Wahington post article here:


    Maybe times have changed.