GIPC Asked and WIPO Candidates Respond – Geoffrey Onyeama

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: the incumbent DG, Francis Gurry (Australia); WIPO deputy director general responsible for development, Geoffrey Onyeama (Nigeria); chair of the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), Alfredo Suescum (Panama); and former chair of the WIPO Coordination Committee, and of the Trade and Development Board of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), 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. In the coming weeks, we will post the responses from the candidates as they are received.

Up first is Geoffrey Onyeama, who has worked in a variety of capacities at WIPO since 1985 before becoming WIPO deputy director general for development. Below are his answers to the GIPC questionnaire and you may read his full CV here.

1. 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?

Over the life of WIPO access for non-government stakeholders has been arranged through the grant of observer status at the various specialist standing committees. This system has worked fairly well. Their engagement could be further enhanced by the grant of participation rights at appropriate times. As for emerging countries and LDCs, funding is often provided to secure their participation. More assistance can be provided for this purpose, subject to available funding.

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?

The long term priority is for WIPO is to provide its expertise in dealing with: the global challenges of food insecurity, access to medicines and the digital divide. The organization is best placed to assist in the formulation of IP-based responses to these issues, such as ensuring the availability of climate change agricultural technologies; moderating the relationship between patented medicines and generics; and facilitating the dissemination of digital-based education platforms.

WIPO has a continuing obligation to provide the very best service in maintaining the international patent, trademarks and designs registration systems. In the short and mid-term I will direct my attention to this as well as to the various draft conventions and treaties which are currently being formulated.

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?

As the global IP organization, WIPO is the authoritative IP voice in international policy debates, particularly those which concern cultural diversity, innovation, health and economic development. The modern IP landscape has become more complex as more international organizations and global institutions assert an IP competence, in fields as disparate as: agriculture, international trade, health, communications and education. WIPO is best placed to provide appropriate technical IP expertise to other global institutions particularly through the work of its specialist committees. I will seek to promote the organization’s leadership on the IP aspects of  these debates by providing a those States with a more immediate access to the organization’s management team and making that team more immediately accountable to its membership.

My experience has been that these important issues are best promoted through the use of case examples and I will commission targeted case studies in support of the organization’s educational and promotional strategies.

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