February 26, 2014

GIPC Asked and WIPO Candidates Respond – Francis Gurry


By Aaron Smethurst

In early March 2014, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Coordination Committee is expected to nominate a candidate for appointment as director general (DG). Four candidates have indicated their interest in being selected for the role of WIPO DG: incumbent DG Francis Gurry (Australia), Geoffrey Onyeama (Nigeria), Alfredo Suescum (Panama), Jüri Seilenthal (Estonia).

Ahead of next month’s nomination, the GIPC asked each of the candidates three questions from the private sector which address critical issues in WIPO. So far, we’ve posted responses from Geoffrey Onyeama, Jüri Seilenthal, and Alfredo Suescum. Today the GIPC is posting its final interview submission, this time from current WIPO DG Francis Gurry.

Below are DG Gurry’s answers to the GIPC questionnaire and you may read his biography here.

We encourage you to look over the responses from all of the candidates and contact your delegation to register your support.

Gurry_picsm1) How can non-government stakeholders best engage at WIPO?  How could their engagement be improved, or further enhanced, in particular that from emerging countries and LDCs?

There are several ways in which non-government stakeholders can effectively engage in the work of WIPO.

Traditionally, and in contrast to some other international organizations, WIPO has had a system for the accreditation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).  Some 319 NGOs are accredited and many of them regularly participate in the work of the normative committees of the Organization as observers.  Their expert input and views are highly valued.  Participation in the committees also gives the NGOs the possibility to interact directly with Member-State delegations outside the meeting room and to communicate views and positions to those delegations.

This traditional system has been increasingly supplemented by a more proactive role on the part of NGOs in seeking meetings with the Secretariat and with delegations to communicate information and positions.  This more proactive engagement on the part of NGOs reflects the greater interest in, and trend towards, multistakeholder engagement in policy processes around the world.  The Member States of WIPO successfully concluded two new multilateral treaties over the past two years, the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or otherwise Print Disabled.  These successful outcomes were due to several factors, not the least of which was the active engagement of the relevant interested parties in the non-governmental sector and the alignment of the divergent interests of those parties.  In the case of the Beijing Treaty, this meant the alignment of the interests of the actors and the studios.  In the case of the Marrakesh Treaty, this meant the alignment of the interests of publishers and the World Blind Union.  When the interests of the concerned parties in civil society are aligned, it makes it easier for States to move towards agreement.

Another way in which NGOs can effectively engage in the work of the Organization is through public-private partnerships.  We have sponsored a number of such partnerships in recent years, including WIPO Re:Search, which groups pharmaceutical companies, national medical research institutes and universities to encourage sharing research and capacity building in the area of neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis; an Accessible Books Consortium (Stakeholders Platform) between publishers, collective management organizations and blind associations for making available copies of works in accessible formats to persons who are blind or print disabled; and WIPO Green, a virtual marketplace for environmentally sensitive technologies.  It is notable that both the emerging countries and the least developed countries are actively engaged in these public-private partnerships.  In the case of WIPO Re:Search, the Brazilian Medical Research Council, the Indian Medical Research Council and the South African Medical Research Council are all engaged, as well as universities and research institutions from least developed countries.

Finally, I would note that our Global IP Systems (the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid System for marks and the Hague System for designs) depend very much on user input for improvements in the nature and quality of services provided under them.

In short, engagement across all the services and activities of the Organization is welcome.  I appointed a Head and focal point for Non-Governmental Organizations and Industry Relations and I would hope to build upon this in the future to encourage more engagement.

2) What is your vision for WIPO in the coming years?  What will be your priorities for the organization, overall – in the mid-, as well as long-term?

I have said on a number of occasions that IP is on a journey from the periphery to the center of the economic system.  The centrality of IP brings with it a number of challenges and those challenges determine the priorities of the Organization.

A first challenge is to manage, efficiently and with high-quality outcomes, the enormous demand for IP that is a consequence of the increased economic value and importance of IP.  In 2012, 2.35 million patent applications, 6.58 million trademark class applications and 1.22 million design applications were filed worldwide.  Growths rates in IP applications continue to outperform the growth rate of the world economy.  These volumes of applications make demand management a major priority to ensure the timely delivery of quality IP titles.  This priority will see an expansion in the Global IP Systems of WIPO – the PCT, the Madrid System for marks and the Hague System for designs.  These systems will become more global in their participation, a tendency that we can see developing with, for example, the recent accessions of Colombia, India, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines and Tunisia to the Madrid System.  The systems will also attract higher percentages of those applications that are filed in multiple countries as their global reach will make them more attractive and cost-effective.

The enhanced economic value and role of knowledge-based capital also means that innovation and IP are increasingly the focus of competition.  There are many examples that illustrate this – the smartphone patent wars, competition for human resources, competition for the location of R&D facilities and increased espionage are but some instances of this development.  This focus, together with increased globalization and the rapid pace of technological change, means that we will continue to see very active IP normative agendas at all levels – national, bilateral, regional, plurilateral and multilateral.  Rules will be needed to ensure fair competition, an even playing field and adaptation to new technologies.  Thus, a second priority for the Organization will be to ensure that it continues to be relevant to, and a source of, appropriate economic rule-making.  We need to build upon the successes of the Beijing and Marrakesh treaties to conclude, in the near term, those projects that are advanced, such as the design law treaty and a treaty on the protection of broadcasting organizations.

A further priority will be to provide IT platforms, databases and tools that facilitate cooperation between the various IP Offices of the world, thereby contributing to enhanced international cooperation and to a better information basis for decision-making (for example, through the sharing, between IP Offices, of patent search and examination results).  We have made good progress in this area over the past five years, but we need to develop further the infrastructure that underlies the operation of the IP system worldwide in order to reduce costs and to raise the quality of outcomes.

Another very important priority is to ensure that all countries, regardless of their level of development, are positively engaged with intellectual property and in the work of the Organization.  This is a necessary basis for forward movement in the work of the Organization.  I believe that we have had very good engagement in recent years (which two new multilateral treaties and the prospect of several others demonstrate), but we should never take this engagement for granted.

3) What will you do to promote publicly around the world the benefits of a strong international IP protection for enhancing cultural diversity, innovation, health and economic development?

I have been emphasizing, in my speeches and in my meetings with political leaders, the benefits of innovation and creativity.  Innovation is the major source of economic growth, new and better jobs and improvements in our quality of life.  The cultural and creative industries are also enormous contributors to GDP, employment and our enjoyment of life.  Both innovation and cultural creation need to be financially sustainable.  IP is the life-blood of innovation and cultural creation and is the method by which they are financed.  Without IP, it is impossible to have a healthy innovation or creativity ecosystem.  This is the fundamental message that I carry and that I believe speaks eloquently of the need for IP.

It is also important to emphasize that IP has applications to all economies, regardless of their level of development.  All societies have fashions, music, literature and other creative expressions.  It is impossible to make any object without conceiving its design.  Everyone uses technology at one level or another since humans first started making tools.  IP is not the exclusive preserve of the developed countries.  It has applications at every level of development.  The more it is understood and used, the more likely it is that cultural richness and inventiveness will be translated into economic wealth.

In addition to the messaging, we need to build upon our programs for enhancing the capacity of developing countries to participate in and to use the intellectual property system.  These programs cover the regulatory framework, infrastructure and human capacity building. In future, I would also like to see a big emphasis on the use of IP in support of national economic goals.  Whatever those goals may be – whether they be the transformation of subsistence agriculture into commercial agriculture, the development of a creative economy, creating niches in global value chains or the addition of more value in economies based on primary resources – IP has a major and instrumental role to play in the realization of the goals.

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