February 18, 2014

GIPC Asked and WIPO Candidates Respond – Jüri Seilenthal

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. Last week, we posted the first in the series from Geoffrey Onyeama. Today and in the coming weeks, we will post the responses from the remaining candidates.

J_Seilenthal_WIPO_piltToday you will hear from Jüri Seilenthal, who is the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Estonia to the United Nations and previous chair of the WIPO Coordination Committee. 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?

Two questions and thus two answers.

First, the other stakeholders. I have said on all occasions, that taking account of the views of all stakeholders is extremely important, whether NGO-s, private sector organizations, or NGO-s whose main stakeholders are from the private sector. This applies to all international organizations, including WIPO.  I think WIPO, as any international body can benefit hugely from all viewpoints being on the table, so in discussions no idea is left aside for a reason solely of it coming from somewhere else than a member state. It is of utmost importance that all possibilities and arguments are considered.

This said, WIPO is a member driven organization, and the mandate comes from member states. So all the ideas the stakeholders have can and should influence the work of the organizations foremost through member states, which have the prerogative to adjust the positions of their own stakeholders in a balanced way.

Second, I would not specifically differentiate between different member states. I recognize that stakeholders from LDC-s might have barriers as to access, and in this case we should look specifically at getting their message into the debate, but my own experience in Geneva is that there is no shortage of different NGO-s in Geneva to take up the causes of all interested parties.

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?

First and foremost WIPO needs to be a reliable global public service provider at the service of the global IP community, in accordance with established rules and ethical principles. In order to facilitate the engagement of developing countries in the system the development agenda has to be mainstreamed into the work of the organization and its effectiveness needs to be enhanced and measured as to changes in uptake of the use of IP systems. And WIPO has to keep abreast of technological development, providing also solutions to issues that come from the changes that technological progress brings.

At the same time it is not the role of an international organization to be ahead of the agenda, the substantial legislative issues and initiatives are a remit for member states that have to achieve a consensus on the way forward.

My first priority is to get the organization back into the role foreseen by member states, that it is fulfilling its core functions according to the existing rules and with maximum efficiency. If this can be achieved in the medium term, then from there on it is up to WIPO to continue on the same level providing support to members in the existing legal framework, and if there is a wish from member states to move ahead on specific questions then to provide adequate background information and support by assisting in brokering a decent compromise and suggesting possible win-win solutions.

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?

My own country, Estonia is a good example, how a country that was cut off from the mainstream of IP development for 5 decades has returned to the system. I can see no inherent reasons, why this should also not be the case for developing countries, whose history might be of course different, but who as well in essence need to catch up. I think practical examples speak the best, we need to find and highlight the cases where the IP architecture actually benefits inventors and creators from developing countries, protecting their rights. There are good examples of both developing countries and individual IP users whose experience is the best example.

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