World Intellectual Property Organization

WIPO Director General highlights Link between Innovation and Development

Geneva, September 20, 2010
PR/2010/660

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The role of innovation in promoting economic growth and competitiveness as well as the significant changes in the dynamic global innovation landscape were the focus of remarks by WIPO Director General in his opening statement to the annual meetings of the member states of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which run from September 20 to 29, 2010.  Mr. Gurry addressed his remarks to some 70 ministers who will be exploring the theme "Innovation, Growth and Development: The Role of Intellectual Property and Member States’ National Experiences" in a two-day high-level ministerial segment.

“Innovation is central to economic growth and to the creation of new and better jobs. It is the key to competitiveness for countries, for industries and for individual firms. It is the process by which solutions are developed to social and economic challenges,” Mr. Gurry told ministers. He noted that innovation is also “the reason why we have intellectual property” which provides the incentive for the significant “investment of time, effort and human and financial resources” associated with the process of innovation and its many benefits.

Mr. Gurry underlined the growing complexity of “the journey from idea to commercial reality” which had led to “a broadening of the understanding of what constitutes innovation. In addition to technology, it is increasingly acknowledged that organizational, marketing and design knowledge are vital to successful innovation. Intellectual property is also central to these other dimensions of the enlarged notion of innovation,” he noted.

The Director General underscored the changing geography of innovation within the dynamic global innovation landscape. “Both the geography of innovation and the means by which innovation occurs are changing, overturning many of our assumptions and expectations,” he noted. He said, “Trends in economic growth and patterns of investment in education and research and development make it clear that further continental shifts will occur in the world of innovation and that the map of innovation will continue to evolve.” Mr. Gurry also pointed to the emergence of “open innovation, where enterprises and institutions look outside themselves to satisfy their innovation needs” – a trend which has been fostered by the increasingly “networked and connected economy

These changes in the innovation landscape, he said, “have given more importance to WIPO’s role in developing and coordinating global infrastructure” which was “an increasingly fertile” dimension for effective international cooperation.   Such cooperation offers an opportunity to increase the participation of the least developed countries and developing countries in global innovation and to reduce the knowledge gap. It also offers a “very effective means of improving both the efficiency of the work of patent offices in support of innovation and the quality of their output”, Mr. Gurry noted. WIPO has made considerable progress in the last year in enhancing the availability of knowledge and in contributing to the development of a global technical infrastructure. The Director General cited a range of public-private partnerships with publishers and commercial database vendors on preferential terms. He also noted that through the Stakeholders Platform, supported by publishers and the World Blind Union, plans are also well advanced for an ambitious arrangement for the distribution of published works in accessible formats for the visually impaired.

Mr. Gurry underlined the need to continue to improve the “essential support services for global innovation” that were offered by WIPO through its global IP systems - the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid System for international registration of marks, the Hague System for the international registration of designs and the Lisbon System for appellations of origin. He said “Protection for an increasing share of the world’s innovative effort is sought through these systems” which enjoy widespread and expanding membership, “reflecting their status as examples of successful international cooperation.” The Director General welcomed efforts by member states in working groups relating to these global IP systems “to invigorate each of these systems and to extend participation in them.” These services are also strategic assets as they generate over 90% of the revenue of the Organization and enable WIPO to offer a wide range of capacity-building and other development services.

In relation to progress in the development of the international legal framework, Mr. Gurry noted that thanks to broad-based engagement in these discussions, “While there is still much distance to travel, there are real possibilities of concrete progress in a number of areas, including access to published works on the part of the visually impaired, audiovisual performances, broadcasting, folklore and traditional knowledge, designs and trademarks on the Internet.”  He said that the success of such cooperation is, to some extent, a test of the relevance of the Organization and multilateralism to the fast-moving world of innovation.

Mr. Gurry concluded by noting progress in the Organization’s Strategic Realignment Program and paid tribute to WIPO’s staff for “their dedication and service.”

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