WIPO Member States endorse reforms

December 2010

This year’s meetings of WIPO’s Assemblies - which saw the participation of 64 ministers as well as delegations from 184 member states - were unique, featuring the appearance of iconic singer-songwriter Stevie Wonder. The musician’s impassioned plea for governments to reach agreement on enhanced accessibility of copyright content for persons with physical disabilities set the tone of the meetings which went on to endorse reforms led by Director General Francis Gurry.

Director General underscores role of innovation

The role of innovation in promoting economic growth and competitiveness and significant changes in the global innovation landscape were the focus of the Director General’s opening remarks. “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 and delegates participating in the two-day, high-level segment of the Assemblies.

High-level segment

Over 64 ministers shared their national experiences on “Innovation, Growth and Development: The Role of Intellectual Property (IP)”. Ministers underscored the importance of IP in supporting the search for solutions to the many challenges confronting their countries. They emphasized the need for a balanced IP system to create a secure environment for investment in innovation and highlighted the importance of implementing national IP strategies to effectively manage IP assets for development.

Innovation is also “the reason why we have intellectual property” he noted. Adding that it 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.

The growing complexity of “the journey from idea to commercial reality,” Mr. Gurry noted, has led to “a broadening of the understanding of what constitutes innovation”. He said that organizational, marketing and design - in addition to technological - knowledge were vital to successful innovation. “Intellectual property is also central to these other dimensions of the enlarged notion of innovation,” he observed.

Pointing to changes in the global innovation landscape, he said “Both the geography of innovation and the means by which innovation occurs are changing, overturning many of our assumptions and expectations.” Trends in economic growth and patterns of investment in education and research and development, he continued, “make it clear that further continental shifts will occur in the world of innovation and that the map of innovation will continue to evolve.”

The Director General referred to the emergence of “open innovation” - a rising trend in the increasingly “networked and connected economy” – where “enterprises and institutions look outside themselves to satisfy their innovation needs.”

Against this backdrop, the Director General noted that “WIPO’s role in developing and coordinating global infrastructure” has acquired “more importance.” This is “an increasingly fertile” area for effective international cooperation insofar as it offers an opportunity to reduce the knowledge gap and increase participation by least developed and developing countries in global innovation. Mr. Gurry underscored that 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”.

The Director General underlined the need to continue to improve the “essential support services for global innovation” offered by WIPO through its global IP systems1 which are enjoying widespread and expanding membership. He recalled that these strategic assets generate over 90 percent of the Organization’s revenue, enabling it to offer a wide range of capacity-building and development services.

In relation to the international legal framework, he said that there were “real possibilities of concrete progress in a number of areas,” citing access to published works by the visually impaired; audiovisual performances; broadcasting; folklore and traditional knowledge (TK); designs; and trademarks on the Internet. He said that the success of such cooperation was a test of the relevance of the Organization and multilateralism to the fast-moving world of innovation.

Round-up of the Assemblies

Planning for the future

Member states welcomed the new Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) which sets the broad direction for the Organization over the next five years. Developed after extensive consultations with member states, the MTSP is designed to ensure that WIPO keeps pace with the changing external environment; and delivers clear results in pursuit of its mission to promote innovation and creativity - through a balanced and effective IP system - for economic, social and cultural development in all countries.

Strategic Realignment Program (SRP)

WIPO’s ambitious strategic change program launched in 2008 by the Director General was thoroughly reviewed, and member states welcomed progress in the implementation of a wide range of reforms. The SRP is designed to ensure that WIPO is a service-oriented organization with staff that work together with pride and integrity to deliver results for member states (see WIPO Magazine 5/2010).

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

The modernization of WIPO’s core administrative, management and customer-service functions, which includes electronic document distribution, was fully endorsed. Member states also approved the implementation of a fully integrated ERP system for enhanced information on performance and resource utilization and welcomed the introduction of new International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). A five-year strategy for regularizing the contractual situation of long-serving staff on short-term contracts was also approved.

Language policy

Member states agreed on a new language policy which, given its resource-intensive nature, will be implemented in phases to extend language coverage to as many WIPO forums as possible.

IP and development

Delegations reiterated their commitment to the WIPO Development Agenda and its effective implementation. They expressed particular satisfaction with the recent adoption of a coordination mechanism to support the Committee on Development and Intellectual Property (CDIP) in monitoring, assessing and reporting on the implementation of Development Agenda projects. This, together with proposals to integrate funding for Development Agenda projects into the Organization’s budgetary framework, reflects “the systematic integration” of the development dimension into all areas of WIPO’s work. The thematic projects, member states agreed, added impetus to their implementation. Seventeen dedicated projects, costing over 19 million Swiss francs, have been approved so far by the CDIP. Of the 45 Development Agenda recommendations, 36 are now being implemented.

In his report to member states, the Director General noted “demand has continued to rise from developing countries for assistance in building their national innovation infrastructure, and in reinforcing the capacity of their research institutions in the area of IP licensing and technology transfer.” As a response, he noted, WIPO has been working with member states to establish Technology Innovation Support Centers (TISCs)2. Mr. Gurry referred to a range of other initiatives, including practical skills workshops on technology transfer, patent drafting and technology licensing. Over 2,000 research and technology managers have benefitted from these initiatives in the past year. The WIPO Academy also attracted record numbers of applicants for its distance learning courses, organized an unprecedented 10 Summer Schools and provided over 700 scholarships for staff in IP offices.

International legal framework

The General Assembly reviewed the status of work in WIPO’s various standing committees. The Director General noted the “positive atmospherics and forward movement” achieved in most committees, resulting from the readiness of member states to “embrace practical solutions in the wider interest.”

Developments include:

  • Twenty studies produced since the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) re-initiated its work two years ago;
  • The “shared desire” of member states to “make a positive difference” in facilitating access to copyrighted works for visually impaired persons (VIPs);
  • Agreement by the Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT) in June 2010, to advance work on a possible treaty for industrial design formalities and to consider new issues surrounding the use of trademarks on the Internet as well as the protection of names of states against registration or use as trademarks;
  • The positive spirit of cooperation characterizing the search for a consensus on an international legal instrument (or instruments) for effective protection of TK, traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) and genetic resources (GRs). Delegates committed to continuing to actively and constructively engage in the work of the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC). They noted that the first Intersessional Working Group (IWG) meeting in July 2010 – which streamlined the negotiating text for TCEs – marked a significant step forward in the IGC's complex negotiations.

WIPO’s Global IP Services

Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)

“Improving the functioning of the [PCT] system will contribute to the dual challenges faced by IP offices around the world of reducing the backlogs of 4.2 million unprocessed patent applications, and of improving the quality of granted patents,” the Director General underscored in his report to member states. The PCT Assembly noted the work being undertaken to find ways to improve the delivery of PCT services to stakeholders, particularly the positive outcome and the recommendations of the PCT Working Group’s June session. “Many of these recommendations, notably those relating to the quality of international search and preliminary examination,” Mr. Gurry noted, “seek to build on the work already underway aimed at improving the ability of national and regional offices to search prior art from a wide range of sources and in a wide range of languages, and to share the results of those searches with other offices.” A series of studies were also commissioned to assess the success of the PCT system in disseminating technical information, facilitating access to technology and providing technical assistance to developing countries.

The Madrid and Hague Systems3

Continued progress has been made in streamlining the legal frameworks that govern each of these systems which facilitate the process of obtaining international protection for trademarks and designs respectively. The respective Assemblies noted steady progress in implementing information technology modernization programs.

Arbitration and mediation

“After 16 years of operations,” the Director General noted, the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center “occupies a prominent position in the dispute resolution landscape.” While the Center has an active practice in arbitration and mediation services in other areas of IP, the bulk of its work relates to domain names under the UDRP. WIPO is now the preferred dispute resolution provider for 63 country code top level domains (ccTLDs) which account for 15 percent of all top level domain categories. Attention was drawn to the opening of the Center’s Singapore office in May 2010 as well as the introduction, in December 2009, of a paperless procedure for filing cases electronically, which is generating significant savings, in the region of 1 million paper pages per year. The Center continues to engage with and monitor processes associated with the planned expansion of top-level domains.

In closing the meeting, Mr. Gurry said “we started on notes of harmony with Stevie Wonder, and that harmonious atmosphere has continued throughout the Assemblies.” He thanked ministers for their participation in the high-level segment, which reflected “a high-level political engagement and interest in the Organization’s work.” The Chair of the WIPO General Assembly, Ambassador Alberto Dumont4 welcomed the positive outcome of the Assemblies which he said had been “extremely fruitful.”

1  Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks, the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs and the Lisbon System for the International Registration of Appellations of Origin.
2  TISCs are being established in Algeria, Ecuador, Morocco and Tunisia. Additional centers are foreseen in Bangladesh, Cuba, Egypt, Guatemala, Senegal and Viet Nam, and some 10 additional requests are under consideration.
3  The Madrid System for the International Registration of Marks and the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs.
4  Argentina’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva

The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.