WIPO Director General Calls for Expanded Membership in Global IP Systems, Highlights Organization’s Achievements and Future Priorities

Geneva, October 2, 2017
PR/2017/810

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry called for greater participation in WIPO’s international patent, trademark and design systems and said the Organization is adapting to new challenges stemming from an accelerating rate of global innovation.

Video: DG's opening address to the WIPO Assemblies Video | Full text

In an address opening the 57th Series of Assemblies of the Member States of WIPO, Mr. Gurry recounted the Organization’s achievements in the 2016-17 biennium, which he said ended with a favorable financial position.

Director General Francis Gurry at the opening of the WIPO Assemblies 2017 (Photo: WIPO).

Speaking of WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), Madrid System for International Registration of Marks and the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs, Mr. Gurry said: “These systems provide the best means for managing the growing demand for intellectual property worldwide, as well as for obtaining effective intellectual property protection in the global market.”

Noting Indonesia’s planned accession to the Madrid System as the 100th contracting party, Mr. Gurry urged all Member States “to consider seriously the benefits of these systems and the possibility of joining them, if they have not already done so.”

Mr. Gurry said the WIPO-administered IP systems account for 93% of the Organization’s budget compared to 4% coming from Member States contributions.

Mr. Gurry noted that the overall financial situation of the Organization “continues to be robust.” Results for 2016 were very positive, with the year ending with a surplus of 32 million Swiss Francs. Comparable results may be expected at the end of 2017, he said.

Member States are considering the draft Program and Budget for the 2018-2019 biennium at the WIPO Assemblies. While a 10.4% increase is projected in revenue as well as increasing demand for the Organization’s services, the Director General is proposing to limit the increase in expenditure to 2.7%.   

For the fifth consecutive biennium, he said, no increases are foreseen in fees for the Global IP Systems nor in staff posts.

Mr. Gurry also sketched out areas of potential longer-term growth in the Organization’s activities.

“Looking to the future, there are several features of the intellectual property landscape that I should like to mention that suggest potential orientations for the Organization in the medium and longer term,” he said.

Mr. Gurry underlined the importance of innovation which “lies at the heart of the mission of intellectual property” and is central to the countries’ economic and industrial strategies.  The fundamental importance of innovation has also been recognized in the wider global economic agenda as reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said.

Mr. Gurry said several of WIPO’s public-private partnerships contribute to the implementation of the SDGs. These include the Accessible Books Consortium, WIPO Re:Search and WIPO Green.

He noted though that innovation brings its own challenges.  “Innovation is occurring at an accelerating speed, which is producing a number of challenges for institutional and governance frameworks throughout the world,” he said.  These include judiciaries’ dealing with IP cases related to technical questions left unaddressed by lawmakers in some jurisdictions.

“We shall move to address these demands from Member States in a more systematic approach within the Secretariat to the judicial administration of IP,” he said.

Mr. Gurry also said WIPO should begin tentative engagement with “the rapidly developing area of big data, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.”

“The area has enormous implications and a multiplicity of dimensions, many of which lie well beyond the focus of intellectual property, and considerable care will need to be exercised to ensure that we do not stray far from the mandate of the Organization.”

“A different side of the coin is the impact of the classical IP system on big data and artificial intelligence,” he said. “In particular, how is the IP system performing in this area in the discharge of its basic mission of encouraging and diffusing innovation?  There are many questions here and our knowledge base is only just developing.”

The Director General also presented a written report to the WIPO Assemblies.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 191 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.

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