World Intellectual Property Organization

Frequently Asked Questions about WIPO

What is the World Intellectual Property Organization?

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was established in 1970, following the entry into force of the WIPO Convention in 1967, with a mandate from its Member States to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world through cooperation among States and in collaboration with other international organizations. The Organization became a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1974. The Director General is Francis Gurry. Based in Geneva, with an international staff of some 1,300 employees, WIPO counts 184 Member States – more than 90 percent of the world’s countries. WIPO is dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property (IP) system, which rewards creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development while safeguarding the public interest.

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind. It is divided into two categories:

  • Industrial property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs, integrated circuits and geographical indications.
  • Copyright and related rights cover literary and artistic expressions (e.g. novels, poems, plays, films, music, artistic works and architecture), and the rights of performing artists in their performances, producers of phonograms in their recordings, and broadcasters in their radio and television broadcasts.

What are intellectual property rights?

Intellectual property rights allow the creators – or owners of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works – to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation. These rights are outlined in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for the right to benefit from the protection of moral and material interests resulting from authorship of any scientific, literary or artistic work.

Why does intellectual property need to be promoted and protected?

There are several compelling reasons. First, the progress and well-being of humanity rest on its capacity to create and invent new works in the areas of technology and culture. Second, the legal protection of these new creations encourages the expenditure of additional resources, leading to further innovation. Third, the promotion and protection of intellectual property spurs economic growth, creates new jobs and industries, and enhances the quality and enjoyment of life.

How does the average person benefit?

Intellectual property rights reward creativity and human endeavor, which fuel the progress of humankind. Some examples: the multibillion dollar film, recording, publishing and software industries – which bring pleasure to millions of people worldwide – would not exist without copyright protection; without the rewards provided by the patent system, researchers and inventors would have little incentive to continue producing better and more efficient products for consumers (for example, the development of vital new pharmaceutical products); and consumers would have no means to confidently buy products or services without reliable, international trademark protection and enforcement mechanisms to discourage counterfeiting and piracy.

How does WIPO promote the protection of intellectual property?

As part of the United Nations system of specialized agencies, WIPO serves as a forum for its Member States to establish and harmonize rules and practices for the protection of intellectual property rights. WIPO also services global registration systems for trademarks, industrial designs and appellations of origin, and a global filing system for patents. Most industrialized nations have intellectual property protection systems that are centuries old. Many new and developing countries, however, are in the process of building up their patent, trademark and copyright legal frameworks and systems. With the increasing globalization of trade and rapid changes in technological innovation, WIPO plays a key role in helping these new systems to evolve through treaty negotiation, registration, enforcement, legal and technical assistance and training in various forms.

How is WIPO funded?

WIPO generates nearly 90 percent of its annual budget through its widely-used international registration and filing activities. The remainder comes from contributions by Member States. WIPO has an annual income of over 300 million Swiss francs.

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