Francis Gurry of Australia Appointed as WIPO Director General
September 22, 2008
The General Assembly of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) appointed by acclamation on September 22, 2008, Mr. Francis Gurry, a national of Australia, as Director General of WIPO for a six-year term that begins on October 1, 2008 and runs through September 2014. Member states as a whole congratulated Mr. Gurry on his appointment and highlighted his wealth of experience in intellectual property and the professionalism that he brings to this position.
In his acceptance speech,
Mr. Gurry outlined his priorities for the future and committed to the strategic realignment of the Organization. In particular, he addressed the challenge of finding an effective response to the growing demand for patent services around the world, as well as the need to examine the future of copyright in a rapidly evolving business and technological environment. He also identified the challenge of promoting respect for intellectual property rights in the face of widespread trade in counterfeit and pirated goods and WIPO’s role in this endeavor. Mr. Gurry committed to build on the work of the Development Agenda, to ensure all countries were in a position to actively participate in the benefits of innovation and the knowledge economy. The Director General-elect further called for “concrete outcomes” to negotiations relating to the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions.
Mr. Gurry thanked member states for the trust placed in him and extended his appreciation to Chairman of the WIPO General Assembly, Ambassador Martin I. Uhomoibhi (Nigeria), Dr. Hilde Skorpen (Norway), Chair of the WIPO Coordination Committee, the Government of Australia and to all those who have been working with him in recent months for their advice. Mr. Gurry also paid tribute to previous Directors General of WIPO and their collective work in “constructing the present Organization.” He said, “I thank especially, on behalf of the staff, Dr. Kamil Idris, for his 25 years of service to WIPO … and for his leadership of the Organization over two mandates as Director General.” He added, “I join the President of the General Assembly in his acknowledgement of the achievements of Dr. Idris and I pay tribute to the initiatives that Dr. Idris introduced during his leadership, which have broadened the scope of intellectual property and increased the diversity of participation in the Organization.”
In outlining future work, Mr. Gurry said that he would introduce a number of new initiatives to ensure that WIPO and the international intellectual property system contribute to promoting innovation and creativity in the face of many challenges.
Mr. Gurry referred to three main factors affecting the institution of intellectual property that “risk impairing its capacity to deliver on its basic mission of stimulating innovation and creativity and contributing to market order” and said, “WIPO needs to anticipate and to address directly the implications of these developments.” First, he referred to the volume of work facing many patent offices resulting from a sustained trend to harness the economic value of innovation through the acquisition of property rights. He said, “The functional consequence of this trend is that the system is becoming a victim of its own success” with patent offices “choking on demand and struggling to perform in a manner that is timely enough to be responsive to the needs of the economy.” Mr. Gurry said that the problem was of “such a critical and urgent nature that a solution will be found.” Underlining his preference for a multilateral solution, Mr. Gurry said “the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) provides a better basis for constructing the future solution than any other one under consideration.”
In the area of creative works, Mr. Gurry said, “the challenges are even more fundamental.” He said, “The twentieth century model of returning value to creators, performers and their business associates, which relied on the distribution of physical packages containing the works, is under the most radical of threats from the convergence of expression in digital technology and the distributional power of the Internet”. Mr. Gurry assured delegates that “solutions will be found” stating his belief that “WIPO remains the right forum to conduct the discussion.” Mr. Gurry also referred to the need for reflection on the appropriate role of WIPO in addressing the escalating problems of trade in counterfeit and pirated goods which according to one estimate exceeds US$200 billion.
Mr. Gurry underlined the importance of broadening the intellectual property system. In particular, he emphasized the question of “how intellectual property can contribute to the reduction of the knowledge gap and to greater participation on the part of developing and least developed countries in the benefits of innovation and the knowledge economy”. He said, “Intellectual property alone is not going to bring about the solution to differential levels of development. But the recent consensus in this Organization on a Development Agenda provides a wonderful opportunity for the Organization to be part of the solution”. He said, “For the Development Agenda to fulfill this promise, I believe that it is essential that we translate the political consensus into concrete and effective projects.” He further proposed strengthening the human and financial resources available to the LDC Division at WIPO.
Mr. Gurry also pointed to the need for “continual analysis and reflection on the best means of making intellectual property work to the advantage of all countries, regardless of their level of development.” He highlighted his intention to better equip the organization with the resources for economic research and statistical data. Such empirical data, he said would provide management with the means of identifying future strategic developments that may impact on the Organization.
Mr. Gurry called for “concrete outcomes” to discussions and negotiations relating to the protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expressions. He said that “a globalizing economy and the advances in communication technologies have exposed special vulnerabilities of indigenous peoples and traditional communities to the unfair loss and appropriation of the products of their traditional knowledge systems.
Mr. Gurry spoke of the need to demonstrate the concrete “relevance of intellectual property” to the global challenges of climate change, desertification, epidemics, access to health care, food security and the preservation of biodiversity. He said, historically, technology has been used as the principal means to deal with such threats. “Policies designed to stimulate the creation and diffusion of technology are thus directly relevant to the consideration of the ways in which the global community can respond to the problems,” he noted. To this end, Mr. Gurry said he would set up a division in the WIPO secretariat to focus on the “specific contribution that intellectual property and WIPO can make within the framework of collective action.”
With regard to the functioning and performance of the WIPO secretariat, Mr. Gurry said, “I plan to undertake a thorough process of strategic realignment in the coming years. It will cover the corporate culture of the Secretariat, the efficiency of our business processes and the alignment of our programs, structure and resources to the Organization’s strategic goals.” He said that this process, which will unfold “in a measured, systematic, and professional manner with full transparent communication,” would require “a collective effort” and said that he counted on the support of staff in this on-going process.
Mr. Gurry has held a number of positions at WIPO since he joined in 1985. Since 2003, Mr. Gurry has served as Deputy Director General responsible for the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT); patent law and policy and International Patent Classification (IPC); WIPO Standards; WIPO statistics; the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center; Traditional Knowledge, Traditional Cultural Expressions, Genetic Resources and Life Sciences. From 1999-2003, Mr Gurry was Assistant Director General and Legal Counsel. Prior to joining WIPO, Mr. Gurry practiced law and held a number or academic positions. His full curriculum vitae is available at http://www.wipo.int/edocs/mdocs/govbody/en/wo_ga_36/wo_ga_36_1.pdf
Mr. Gurry is the fourth Director General of WIPO following Mr. Georg Bodenhausen of the Netherlands (1970-1973) Mr. Arpad Bogsch of the United States (1973-1997) and Dr. Kamil Idris of Sudan (1997-2008). Mr. Gurry, as Director General of WIPO, also becomes Secretary General of International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). By virtue of a cooperation agreement between WIPO and UPOV, an international organization that encourages the development of new plant varieties, the Director General of WIPO is also the Secretary General of UPOV.
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