Report of the Director General to the Assemblies of WIPO – July 14 to 22, 2022
Your Excellency, Ambassador Tatiana Molcean, Chair of the WIPO General Assembly,
Friends and Colleagues,
It is my honor and privilege to welcome you to the Sixty-Third Series of Meetings of the Assemblies of the WIPO Member States.
After two years of meeting in a mostly empty hall, it is an incredible feeling to be able to welcome 900 of you in person this year. Our warm welcome also extends to those who are joining us remotely from around the world. Together we have over 1100 participants from the global IP community at this year’s Assemblies.
I first want to thank our Chair, Ambassador Molcean, for your invaluable leadership and guidance to me and my colleagues throughout the first year of her term, and in the lead up to this year’s Assemblies. Our appreciation also goes to all the Presiding Officers of the many committees, working groups and other bodies whose meetings took place over the past year. And as ever, we are deeply grateful for the support of the Group Coordinators, who have the challenging task of representing the different regional groups and on finding consensus. Your guidance, support and encouragement helps us make WIPO work for all of its Members.
My deepest thanks also goes to the many colleagues at WIPO who have been working tirelessly and passionately to make these Assemblies a success, and who are working closely with all of you in the past year.
When met at last year’s Assemblies, I said, “that in these times the work of WIPO…cannot be business as usual”. That is why our Medium Term Strategic Plan laid out an ambition where the world “uses IP as a powerful tool to create jobs, attract investments, grow businesses, and ultimately develop economies and societies”.
When I shared this new vision and mission, we were still in the midst of the Covid crisis. This year, it seems that we may finally be emerging from the long and dark Covid tunnel, but our exit is not to sunny days and blue skies, but to storms above and clouds ahead.
The invasion of Ukraine. Global inflation. Disruptions to food and energy supply chains. Our global situation remains extremely challenging.
But despite these challenges, we cannot look back or stop our work of building the future of the global IP ecosystem.
We as the global IP community must continue being fully committed to transforming IP from a technical vertical of interest only to specialists, into a powerful catalyst for jobs, investments and development that supports innovators and creators everywhere.
Indeed, the larger trends are also telling us that we have to remain strong on our path. Although the pandemic has been a great disruptor, it has also been a powerful accelerator for technology, digitalization and innovation. In many countries, IP continues to move from the periphery to the center, as businesses and economies use the crisis as an opportunity to reimagine, restructure and rebuild, using innovation and creativity as engines of growth.
International patent applications filed via WIPO's PCT system reached their highest ever level in 2021, passing the 275,000 mark for the first time. Trade Mark and Design applications coming through the Madrid and Hague systems saw double-digit growth of 15 and 21 percent respectively. Usage of WIPO’s ADR mechanisms grew by 44 percent, with a 22 percent rise in the usage of WIPO’s domain name dispute resolution mechanisms.
These numbers reinforce the larger arc of IP filings growth in recent years, which many of you as national IP offices are experiencing as well. Since 2015, trademark volumes have explosively doubled to over 17 million filings, and whilst more modest, patent and design filings have risen by a substantial 15 percent over the same period.
Other elements of the innovation economy are also growing or resilient. Unlike after the 2008 financial crisis, global R&D expenditure grew by over 3 percent in 2020. At the company level R&D growth has continued into 2021, with the top corporate R&D spenders increasing their expenditure by an estimated 10 percent. The 2022 edition of WIPO’s Global Innovation Index, to be published in September, will provide more detail on the state of innovation globally.
Significantly, these positive IP, innovation and creativity metrics are being driven by diverse engines of growth, rather than just those from the traditional innovation powerhouses.
7 out of 10 IP applications are now taking place in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Venture Capital investment more than quadrupled in Africa and Latin America over the last twelve months to US$3 billion and US$16 billion respectively. Bollywood and Nollywood have surpassed Hollywood in terms of the number of films produced, and in 2021, the most streamed content on Spotify and Netflix came from Puerto Rico and the Republic of Korea.
Countries as diverse as Brazil, Bulgaria, India, and Viet Nam are amongst the most consistent in making progress in the GII. And close to 50 countries now boast a start-up that has achieved unicorn status – including Ecuador, Indonesia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Senegal and Thailand. A decade ago, the number stood at just five.
These are exciting times we live in, where innovation and creativity can come from anywhere.
But what is most touching for me is the real impact that our work is having on people on the ground.
When I was on mission in Mexico earlier this year, I had the privilege of meeting with indigenous communities from across the country who made the long journey to Mexico City to engage with WIPO, because they want to know how IP can be their friend and ally in bringing their heritage to the world. These communities included a special group of women from the State of Oaxaca who have a traditional handicraft, a form of silk weaving called “Seda de Cajonos”, which has recently obtained GI status.
The Oaxaca region has been badly hit by the pandemic, and as the local community looks to get back on its feet, WIPO is helping them to combine GI protection with the use of trade marks, designs and other types of IP, to market, brand and package this artisanal product in a way that takes it to the world whilst respecting local traditions.
Stories like this remind us of the importance of our work at these Assemblies, and that when we work well together in here, we can make a difference to the lives of people out there.
Dear colleagues and friends,
Our focus since then has been simple and single-minded – to translate them into concrete plans and actions so as to deliver the results and impact that you expect.
To do this well, we have continued to manage the organization’s resources prudently, efficiently and effectively, using the Results Based Management framework.
I am pleased to report that, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we have recorded a very healthy surplus of almost 245 million CHF for the 2020/21 biennium. This puts us in a good position to invest these surpluses into capabilities, tools and projects to continue supporting you strongly, even as the overall financial and macro-economic environment remains volatile and challenging.
High standards of governance and risk management are key to our success, and I am also happy to share with you that our External Auditor has recognized our approach to risk management and internal controls as one of the strongest in the UN system.
A UN agency that supports innovators and creators must itself have a workplace culture that supports initiative, energy and proactivity. This transformation of our culture to one that is open, transparent and dynamic continues to be a key leadership priority for me and my colleagues, and we are fully committed to making it happen over the years.
As part of this process, we have embarked on our first ever employee engagement survey, and are already using the results to have frank and open conversations at the level of individual work units, as well as at the whole of organization level, about what can we do to improve as an organization. We also believe that diversity is a source of strength for us, and we will continue to work on building a diverse and dynamic work force.
On these foundations of dynamic management, strong governance and sound administration, we have built four pillars of work – reaching out to all, bringing people together, bringing value to people and creating impact on the ground. I’ll go through them one-by-one.
First, reaching out to all.
For far too many people, IP remains an intimidating and technical subject, best left to a small group of IP experts and technicians. This needs to change, and we as the global IP community must make IP relatable and understandable to laypersons, innovators and creators.
In the course of the past year, WIPO’s has transformed the way we communicate about our work away from just focusing on technical IP issues to sharing stories that brings alive the impact of IP to people. One of our most viewed stories has been that of Zimbabwean comic artist Tino Makoni, who is creating a new breed of African superheroes and inspiring a whole new generation of African illustrators and artists.
Our channels of communication have also broadened. We launched our Instagram account at the end of last year – where 60 percent of our followers are 35 and under, and we are due to launch our TikTok account next year. We now have over 350,000 followers across our social media platforms, a double-digit increase since the last Assemblies.
We have also been leveraging on the power of digital to engage with our stakeholders in new ways. Our virtual exhibition on Geographical Indications has seen 70,000 online visitors since its launch last autumn and to connect youths in indigenous communities with climate change, we recently held a Photography Prize for Indigenous Peoples and Local Community Youth, drawing over 230 submissions from around the world.
I am also happy to report that this year's World IP Day attracted record global engagement. Themed around ‘IP and Youth: Innovating for a Better Future’, we recorded over 15 million impressions across our digital platforms and there were nearly 600 World IP Day events across 189 Member States, our largest participation ever.
We are seeing many IP offices communicate in fresh, new ways and develop bilingual capabilities – the ability to talk about IP in a technical way amongst ourselves, but to communicate about IP to others in a way that resonates and connects with them. We hope that more of you will join this movement to connect your community to our work.
Second, WIPO continues to play a key role as the global forum that brings people together to share ideas, shape norms and partner in different ways.
It has been heartening to see our Committees and Working Groups return to their normal hours of work and rhythms of engagement as the health situation stabilizes. While there has yet to be full consensus on all of our outstanding issues, the revival of these meetings gives me hope that we can make meaningful steps as an IP community to move these issues forward.
And we do not need to look too far to see that while achieving consensus is challenging, it is not impossible. On July 1st this year, IP offices around the world implemented the new WIPO standard ST.26 for describing amino acids and nucleotides in patent documentation, the culmination of a process that took years of close cooperation, collaboration and consensus. Where there is a will, there is a way, and the Secretariat stands ready to help Member States find both.
Beyond norm setting work, WIPO continues to be a place where cutting edge IP issues are discussed. We have started conversations on issues relating to trade secrets, a topic that is increasingly taking center stage in many industries. We continue to build momentum behind our Conversation on IP and Frontier Technologies. Since the last Assemblies, two sessions have been held reaching over 2,000 registrants from over 110 countries. Our sixth conversation, scheduled to begin on September 21, will take a deep dive into AI inventions and policy questions – issues very alive to many of you as DGs of IP offices.
On 1 November this year, we will also launch WIPO’s first High-Level Conversation on IP-Backed financing. This is an issue of considerable interest to many Member States and we look forward to bringing together stakeholders from business, finance and public sectors to discuss how we can support startups and SMEs to use their IP and intangible assets for funding. To tee up these discussions, we are publishing a series of reports on what various countries have done in this area – starting with Singapore last year, but with Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Jamaica, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Switzerland and the UK in the pipeline.
While we are happy to bring people together to talk, we also want to bring people together to act. Partnerships are increasingly important for us to be able to deliver impact at scale. Addressing complex global challenges like the pandemic and climate change requires partnerships across different stakeholders.
To deepen our support for SMEs, we are working with the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Trade Centre and the International Renewable Energy Agency to deliver our expertise and programs to SMEs under their care or within their networks. Our collaboration with NGOs like the Association of University Technology Managers and the International Trademark Association allow us to draw on a broad range of IP expertise to support you in areas like tech transfer, traditional knowledge and supporting women in IP.
Another area where we are working with partners to change lives is the work of our Accessible Books Consortium. The ABC now has over 750,000 titles available in 80 languages for cross-border exchange, helping to expand learning and leisure possibilities for millions of people around the world who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.
As a UN agency, it is our mission to use our expertise to address global challenges. That is why we are excited to have finally joined the UN Sustainable Development Group this year, and are fully committed to bringing our expertise in IP and innovation to help in the achievement of the SDGs.
Within Geneva and beyond, we continue to build partnerships to help Member States overcome complex challenges like the pandemic. In April this year, we launched – in partnership with the World Health Organization and World Trade Organization – the 'Trilateral COVID-19 Technical Assistance Platform'. This is an online platform, hosted by WIPO, which allows Members to draw upon the expertise of all three organizations and is a direct result of our strengthened cooperation around the issues of IP, public health and trade. I would strongly encourage Member States to visit the platform and explore how it can be of assistance to you. We will also be holding a third trilateral workshop on diagnostics in the autumn, followed by a joint symposium on COVID-19 and Pandemic Preparedness on 15 December.
Climate change is one of the global challenges where innovative solutions are critical in every aspect. I am happy to share that the revamped WIPO GREEN tech matching platform for climate change technologies has grown to cover nearly 130,000 needs, technologies and patents. In addition, a further nine partners have joined the platform since the last Assemblies, and we have supported six new matchmaking deals in Argentina, China, Indonesia and Japan. The next chapter for WIPO GREEN will be in focusing on certain industry verticals as well as supporting IP offices in designing policies to support climate change technologies in their own countries.
One of the things that is unique about WIPO amongst UN agencies is that we are a provider of services not just to government stakeholders, but also to entrepreneurs and enterprises.
We are grateful that demand continues to be robust, and we are fully committed to ensuring that they continue bringing value to our users. Sustained investments in the relevant IT platforms, for example, in the Resilient and Secure Platform project for PCT, and stepped-up customer and user engagement will be key to improving our efficiency, maintaining service standards and enhancing the customer experience. In this way, we hope to continue bringing value to your innovators as they use our services to move their IP across borders.
We are also committed to providing you with the data you need to make informed policy choices, and we are pleased that two-thirds of the close to 80 countries that participated in our first survey of the usage of the Global Innovation Index reported that they use it as a valuable policy resource for improving the strength of their innovation ecosystems. Our team is also taking forward a project to help Member States capture and better measure the metrics of the creative economy.
Our IP Office Suite continues to provide the IT architecture and software for IP offices to manage their back office, as well as to digitalize, with the most recent versions allowing IP offices to use Cloud-based solutions. Already, more than 90 WIPO Member States are users of the IP Office Suite and we expect demand to grow as more IP offices digitalize and engage with their applicants and users online.
One of the most important and fulfilling areas of our work is to help, you, our Members, especially developing countries and Least Developed Countries, use IP for growth and development. Impact is critical for success here, because an intangible asset like IP needs to be made tangible in order for people to truly see its value.
In our MTSP, we identified women, youth and SMEs as areas of focus for us. I will highlight some of our work in these areas.
With Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, we are delivering a new project to support 32 women in STEM careers through a tailored-made training and mentorship program that develops practical IP skills in areas like biotechnology, engineering and chemistry.
In Uganda we have mentored 70 women entrepreneurs in using IP for product development and commercialization. 13 trademark certificates have been issued to support these entrepreneurs with their brand strategy, with another 15 in the pipeline.
We are now in the second phase of our mentoring and matchmaking program for women entrepreneurs from indigenous and local communities. And we recently launched our first project on IP and women entrepreneurship in the Arab region, which is helping 35 female entrepreneurs in Petra, Jordan, register, manage and commercialize their IP rights.
Engaging with youth is another key priority for the Organization. Young people are not only our future innovators and creators, but they are a large part of the population in developing regions such as Africa, where 65 percent of the population is under 30.
Accordingly, we are developing a regional youth entrepreneurship program which, through mentorship and IP skills development supports more young African entrepreneurs to use the IP system to boost their businesses. We are also working towards a new project with Cabo Verde to train 200 young entrepreneurs in unlocking the value of IP.
In tandem, we have broadened the work of the WIPO Academy to go beyond transfers of technical IP knowledge to the building of practical IP skills. By introducing courses such as “IP4Youth&Teachers”, as well as programs on IP for startups and IP for apps and videogame producers, we aim to equip entrepreneurs, business owners and others with IP skills for success.
For those who want to pursue deeper expertise in IP, we are meeting demand by expanding our network of IP Training Institutions around the world. We currently have a dozen IPTIs in operation, which is set to rise to 30 in the coming years, with new institutions in development in Algeria, Türkiye, the United Arab Emirates and with international partners including ARIPO, ASEAN and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
We are also gearing up to open the second round in applications to our Young Experts Program, which has brought eleven young experts from around the world to WIPO to broaden their IP knowledge and skills, so that they become the next generation of IP and innovation leaders in your country, in your region.
Supporting start-ups as well as SMEs to use IP for business growth is another key feature of our work. SMEs play a critical role in the global economy, accounting for 90 per cent of all companies in the world, employing 70 per cent of the global labor force and generating up to half of global GDP.
Since its launch in November last year, our IP Diagnostics tool has helped over 3,000 business owners understand their IP assets and how they are connected to business strategy, generating over 800 personalized reports. The tool has already been translated into the 6 UN languages, with two more languages soon to be added.
As well as regular projects to train SMEs in Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine and others, we are delivering a program on IP commercialization and Monetization for MSMEs in Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Peru and we are working with El Salvador and Georgia on training programs for small businesses in their technology and agricultural sectors. And the WIPO Academy in 2020/21 reached 15,000 participating SMEs, a 20 percent increase from the last biennium.
For researchers, our network of Technology and Innovation Support Centers continues to expand, reaching 1300 last year in almost 90 countries, which in total handled 1.7 million enquires. We are now linking these Centers into national networks including in Eswatini, Sierra Leone and Cabo Verde, and we are beginning to join national networks into regional networks, with a pilot in the Baltic States. Last month, we also completed a project spanning 22 universities in Egypt and 11 universities in Jordan to build their capacity in managing IP rights.
We are also committed to making IP work for communities, especially in the area of heritage and traditional knowledge – so that IP can help them to bring their crafts, heritage and wisdom to the world, creating jobs and uplifting communities in the process.
I spoke earlier about our project in Mexico on “Seda de Cajonos”. We have also launched our first community focused initiative in Brazil, working with the government agency SEBRAE to support the development of collective Marks for the Tefé and Alvarães communities in the Amazon region. This has supported 420 producers to create value from products made of local flour, honey, and oils.
Beyond these, we are delivering a range of national and regional GI projects, including those in support of Senegal’s "Madd de Casamance", Algeria’s "Miel de Chechar", Cambodia’s "Kampot Sea Salt" and "Kava" from the Pacific Islands.
Following feedback from our LDC Members, we have also put together a graduation support package for them, which aims to provide targeted, substantive and impactful technical assistance to economies scheduled for graduation. We have already begun reaching out to LDCs to tap on this package and we welcome LDCs to reach out to us to find out more.
Finally, we are pleased that the Covid-19 assistance package which we developed last year at the request of Member States is gaining traction, with 23 projects already completed or in development, and 8 more under discussion. Still, we urge more Member States to tap on the wide array of support and assistance available under the package.
This is just a snapshot of the work that WIPO is doing to support you as our Member States, and to truly make WIPO your partner in using IP for growth and development.
Dear colleagues and friends,
Whatever our challenges and difficulties, the global IP community can and should draw on the dynamism, energy and optimism of the innovators and creators that we support, and continue on the transformation journey that we have started together.
It is the sincere hope of me and my colleagues that these Assemblies will not only give us an opportunity to reaffirm our relationship with you as our Members, but for you to reconnect with one another, reimagine the role of IP and IP institutions, and renew our efforts to transform IP from a bundle of legal rights into a powerful catalyst for jobs, investments, business growth and ultimately economic and social development.
WIPO will continue to be with you on your journey of growth and development, and wishes all of you a successful, fruitful and impactful General Assemblies.
Thank you very much.