Report of the Director General to the Assemblies of WIPO – July 6 to 14, 2023
Your Excellency, Ambassador Tatiana Molcean, Chair of the WIPO General Assembly,
Heads of Delegation,
Dear Colleagues, Dear Friends,
It is an honor and a privilege to welcome you to the Sixty-Fourth Series of Meetings of the Assemblies of the WIPO Member States, the most well attended Assemblies in the history of WIPO.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Soon after this Administration took office close to three years ago, my colleagues and I worked with all of you on a new vision for WIPO - a vision where every Member State uses IP as a powerful catalyst for creating jobs, attracting investments, supporting enterprises and entrepreneurs, and ultimately for growth and development.
To make this vision reality, we asked and received your endorsement for our Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP). The MTSP has been our blueprint to transform what IP means, and to map out how we can shift IP from a technical topic of relevance only to IP specialists and experts, to a tool that helps innovators and creators on the ground and from anywhere in the world bring their ideas to life.
I will describe this shift in numbers and statistics in the course of my address, but I first want to begin by telling the story of one person’s journey, a journey that takes place thousands of miles away from this hall in the rugged canyons of Jordan’s Petra region; a region famous for centuries.
Mdm Ikhlas Al Rawajfeh is from Al Rajef, a village in this part of Jordan.
Over the last 11 months, she is one of 35 local women entrepreneurs participating in an intensive WIPO training and mentoring program.
Through this program, we have not only used the power of IP to help the group to brand, market and package their products, we have also made IP part of their daily lives.
Soon, all 35 are set to benefit from a collective trademark called “Rose Hands”, after how the Petra sky shimmers in the morning light.
Not only will this protect the group’s unique handicrafts from imitation, but by drawing on the region’s rich history, it will also act as a gateway to new markets and business growth.
The project is creating impact in other ways as well.
In addition to being an artisan and entrepreneur, Madam Ikhlas volunteers at the Al-Rajef Association for Special Education, where she uses her crafts to educate and entertain children with learning disabilities.
Now she is exploring how her IP skills can support the Association to create its own logo, using the practical knowledge of IP that she has gained to help others.
Her journey is just one of many around the world that WIPO is supporting to bring IP to the grassroots.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Transformations often take place during times of great change.
Previously, such global disruptions have led to a drop in IP filings and activities. So what was surprising was that during the pandemic, these activities continued to show resilience and growth.
With the benefit of hindsight, it has become clear that it is not despite, but rather because of the pandemic that IP moved even closer to the center of enterprises and economies during the past few years.
Three key trends stand out.
First, IP filings and innovation statistics continue to perform well, as businesses and economies increasingly look to innovation, entrepreneurship, technology and digitalization – areas connected with IP – to grow.
Over the past three years, PCT patent filings rose 5 percent to over 278,000. Madrid trade mark filings rose 8 percent to 69,000. And Hague design filings rose 15 percent to more than 25,000. Much of this is being powered by the China-Japan-Republic of Korea triangle of growth, but we see increased IP activity in many in other regions of the world as well.
Use of both the PCT and Hague Systems reached record levels last year, and the caseload before WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center more than doubled, including a surge in domain name disputes.
One interesting dynamic is that after strong growth in health-related technologies in 2021, digital communication, computer technologies and semiconductors resumed their place as the fastest growing PCT fields last year.
The trends are similar with Madrid, where classes associated with the pandemic, such as medical instruments declined, while filings linked to the digital economy and retail grew.
Wider innovation metrics are proving similarly resilient and robust. On 27 September, we will launch WIPO’s 2023 Global Innovation Index (GII). This will show that the top corporate R&D spenders increased their expenditure to 1.1 trillion US dollars last year, a new record, and that global venture capital (VC) deals increased by close to 20 percent in 2022, to over 23,000, despite the tough economic environment.
Second, IP and innovation activity is no longer dominated by one region, but continuing a decades-long trend to become more global, as new growth engines emerge around the world.
India exemplifies the rise of new players in this dynamic landscape. Until 2006, India filed fewer than 100,000 domestic trademark applications per year. Now, this number stands at close to half a million, with India the fourth largest trademark filer in the world.
Local patenting activity is also powering ahead. At the last count, India received over 61,000 patent applications, the 6th highest total in the world, and in 2022 India recorded the sharpest growth of all major PCT filers, with applications rising by more than 25 percent.
From lower bases, Colombia, Egypt, Malaysia, Mexico and Thailand are also showing signs of moving in a similar direction, with each country recording increases of at least 17 percent in PCT applications last year.
Meanwhile, over the past five years we have seen double-digit increases in Madrid applications from economies as diverse as Bulgaria, Morocco and Viet Nam, with applications from Indonesia doubling, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tripling.
And with designs, the share of applications originating from Asia under the Hague System has jumped from 3 percent to 23 percent over the past 10 years, with China’s entry last year boosting growth. At the same time, the share from North America also increased from around 4 percent to over 10 percent during the same period.
Put simply, this is a world where ideas and IP are emerging from everywhere. A world where Africa and Latin America led the way in terms of VC deal growth last year, with Africa the only region not to see an overall decline in the value of VC investments.
Third, in last year’s GII, WIPO identified two emerging innovation waves that are beginning to make their presence felt across economies and societies: a digital innovation wave, built on AI, supercomputing and automation, and a deep science innovation wave, built around biotechnologies and nanotechnologies.
While the rise of new technologies is generating a lot of headlines and attention, it is important to remember that we are still in the early stages of this process and much is yet to unfold.
But what we know for sure is that future advances, whether in energy, transport, medicine or AI, must reach and work for all.
That instead of a digital divide, we must use the power of innovation to reap a digital dividend for everyone in the world – where new technologies and solutions create jobs, drive growth and help to build a better, fairer and more equal world.
While global IP statistics tell an important story, it is also important for us to understand what is in the hearts and minds of people. This is why earlier this year we initiated WIPO Pulse - our first global survey of attitudes towards IP around the world.
Based on 25,000 responses from 50 countries across all regions of the world, it offers a unique snapshot on global perceptions towards IP rights and the role of IP in the economy.
We will release the full report in September and hold information sessions, including for Permanent Missions and experts, to socialize key findings.
But let me give you an advanced preview of some of the main takeaways that are emerging, as these are striking.
First, while respondents in all regions recognize the positive impact of IP on the economy, this is most appreciated in Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa.
In each case, more than two-thirds of participants – and these are laypersons, not experts – have a favorable view of IP’s impact – higher than in Europe and in North America.
Second, respondents in all regions see IP as a key tool for ensuring fair income for individual innovators, creators, authors and designers.
And third, there are strong indications that IP awareness, especially amongst youth, is higher in the global south than in developed countries.
For example, more than 4 in 10 young people surveyed in Africa and Latin America report a personal understanding of trademarks. In most developed countries, the figure is 2 in 10.
These figures show that we still have much more to do to connect our work with those on the ground everywhere in the world. But they also present a different picture from the common perception and stereotype that IP is only known and appreciated in the global north, and gives us impetus to work even harder to bring IP to everyone, in every region.
These global trends of IP moving from the periphery to the center of our economies, our societies and our people’s hearts and minds, give us strong affirmation that WIPO’s journey of transformation must continue.
In doing so, we will build on the work we have started in previous years.
The WIPO Performance Report 2022 presents a comprehensive view on our achievements over the past year.
While it is impossible to delve into all of them, I would like to highlight a number of key accomplishments under each of the four pillars and the foundation of the MTSP.
Pillar one is about communication and engagement. It is about making IP relatable and understandable by everyone.
To do this, we have focused on sharing stories that demystify IP and bring its impact alive. Drawing on the journeys of people we are supporting on the ground, WIPO has produced more than 160 videos over the past 12 months, including features on Pakistan’s first Metaverse, 3D printed rockets in the United States, and Algeria’s Babar carpets. These efforts are connecting our work with new audiences who now see IP in a new light.
Of course, the right content has to be delivered using the right channels.
On social media, our followers grew by nearly 20 percent last year to move beyond the 400,000 mark. Our fastest growing platform is Instagram, where about 60 percent of followers are under 34, and the majority are women. We have just launched WIPO’s TikTok channel to reach out to a different demographic and to take on the challenge of making IP dance.
We have also revamped our website to focus more strongly on the customer journey and to make our content more accessible to you. We are pleased that this work has been noticed and that in the recent World Trademark Review ranking of accessibility of IP websites, WIPO jumped from 49th place to 5th, with page views rising by more than 50 percent last year to almost 60 million.
Engagement with our flagship World IP Day campaign also continues to grow. This year's theme was "Women and IP: Accelerating Innovation and Creativity", which many of you personally supported and celebrated together with us. We recorded over 40 million impressions across our digital platforms, two and a half times the level last year, and supported more than 400 events in over 130 countries. In all, users from 209 countries and territories participated in the campaign, a record high.
Pillar two is about bringing people together and partnering with everyone to shape the future of the global IP ecosystem.
Member States continue to engage extensively and constructively with the vital work of our Standing Committees and Working Groups.
These committees do not stand still, they engage energetically with issues critical to the future development of IP around the world. As examples, the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) will soon gather practical experiences with Standard-Essential Patents and FRAND related issues. Around 80 Member States have engaged with the Standing Committee on the Law of Trademarks’ (SCT) work on nation branding. And the Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore’s (IGC) renewed mandate comes before you for approval at these Assemblies.
We are also exploring how novel approaches can inject new energy into longstanding debates.
At the last Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) meeting, we held an information session on music streaming alongside the official Committee agenda. SCCR colleagues have also worked with NGOs and Member States to develop a Toolkit on Preservation, to support lawmakers and policymakers to safeguard the world's cultural heritage.
While moving the normative agenda forward is demanding, it is not impossible.
Last year’s landmark decision, at these Assemblies, to proceed with two Diplomatic Conferences on the protection of designs, and IP, genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge was a major breakthrough in WIPO’s work.
Since then, we have worked hard to give practical effect to these decisions.
Our pledge is that we will continue to support negotiators navigate both issues as we build towards the two preparatory committees scheduled for the autumn, as well as the Diplomatic Conferences next year.
Let me take this opportunity to call on Member States to demonstrate strong political will to cross the finishing line together – as one WIPO community – on these two important issues, so that we can make a difference to the lives of many people across the world who are looking to us for leadership.
Alongside our normative agenda, we want WIPO to be the global forum for discussing IP issues.
Some of these focus on specific communities, like the work that we do at the WIPO Judicial Institute to bring IP Judges together to help them connect and share best practices.
But some of our other work in this area is broad and crosscutting. For example, through our seven Conversations on IP and Frontier Technologies, WIPO has established a leading role in broadening understanding of how IP intersects with technologies such as AI.
Our most recent conversation on IP and the Metaverse, in March, drew more than 4,000 participants from over 140 Member States – two-thirds of whom were from developing countries.
Our next session will be on IP and Generative AI – a very topical issue that I am certain will generate a lot of interest and participation when it is held on September 20th and 21st.
Another cutting edge issue is on IP backed Finance, with a second High-Level WIPO Conversation scheduled for November after a successful first session last year.
While we value these discussions, where possible, we want to translate them into practical results and actions.
This is why we have begun an IP Management Clinic for SMEs active in AI, and will launch a policy guide for IP offices on AI later this year, as well as formed an Expert Consultative Group on IP Valuation.
As part of this Pillar, we are also committed to Building Respect for IP.
While a lot of this work centers around helping to develop capabilities in Member States to address IP enforcement issues, at its broadest this work is about helping Member States to build a culture of confidence, respect and, dare I say it even love for IP and innovation.
That’s why, alongside training and capability building programs with prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials and others, as well as the growth of WIPO ALERT to almost 11,000 registered domains, we are stepping up the delivery of projects that build respect for IP on the ground.
Many of these initiatives focus on youth and how we educate our children. To do this, we need to reach out to the youngest with easy-to-understand messages about IP. Over the last decade, with the help of funds from the Republic of Korea, we have developed a set of six animations for children on IP, based on the popular character, Pororo the Little Penguin. The series is now available in nine languages – most recently in Thai – and earlier this year the number of views on YouTube reached 20 million.
Another important aspect of this work concerns engaging with schools. With ARIPO, the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization, we are running IP Clubs that have supported 200 schoolchildren in Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe to learn about the importance of IP rights.
We encourage Member States to partner with us on more such projects, so that we can help our children and young people understand that IP is part of their journey too.
As WIPO reaches more deeply into countries and more broadly across the world, delivering through partnerships becomes more critical.
We are pleased that many of you have supported our enhanced cooperation with the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization during the pandemic. This led to a number of important initiatives for Member States, including a joint technical symposium on pandemic response, preparedness and resilience hosted by WIPO last December, and the creation of a joint COVID-19 Technical Assistance Platform, which provides Member States with a one-stop-shop for the expertise and resources of all three organizations to deal with IP, health and trade issues.
Not only has this work been impactful, it has also provided us with a model for interagency cooperation that is now flowing across other areas of our work.
We are partnering with the International Trade Centre (ITC) on SheTrades, bringing an IP component to this program. And alongside UNCTAD and its eTrade for Women initiative, we have provided training to over 100 women entrepreneurs in Africa and Latin America on IP rights in the digital economy.
New partnerships are also being forged, most recently with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where we will work to bring the worlds of IP and sports more closely together so that we can work to support sports associations and athletes to use IP to sustain growth and careers.
The IP community is a multi-stakeholder community and partnerships with other stakeholders who represent various professional groups – the International Trademark Association (INTA), the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), the Licensing Executives Society International (LESI), as well as the World Blind Union (WBU) in the Accessible Books Consortium project – allow us to draw on expertise, networks and ideas from across a wide range of stakeholders to support a wide range of beneficiaries.
We welcome more of these partnerships and collaborations so that we can, together, do more for you.
But perhaps the area where collaboration across agencies can deliver the greatest impact is around the 2030 Agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
WIPO has entered into our second year as a member of the UN Sustainable Development Group, and it is clear that IP has an important role to play in fueling innovative solutions in our common, global challenges across all 17 SDGs.
Momentum in this direction is building. We recently held a major international conference on IP and the SDGs in cooperation with Portugal, published a new report identifying how IP offices are supporting Agenda 2030, and announced that the theme of next year’s World IP Day will be IP and the SDGs.
This is a priority area for us, and when I attend the UN SDG Summit in September, my message to world leaders and the wider UN community will be that WIPO is determined to harness the power of IP, innovation and creativity to bring the SDGs back on track and to build a better, fairer and more sustainable world.
Pillar three is about providing high quality IP services, knowledge and data.
WIPO is unique amongst UN agencies in providing services not just to governments and policymakers, but also directly to people and enterprises.
Delivering value to our users has always been part of our DNA and a key part of our mission and will continue to be so.
Last year we launched a major initiative across all of WIPO’s fee paying services to transform our Customer Service ethos, experience and approach. This will ensure that WIPO continues to keep pace with the evolving needs of our users around the world.
We are also exploring ways of harnessing new technologies to make our services more efficient. One example is the work of the Advanced Technology Applications Center, which is embedding AI tools to further enhance our operations, support translation and provide new services for users.
As well as strengthening our own services through e-filing and other improvements, we will continue to support you as national IP offices to enhance your functionality and infrastructure.
Over 90 offices are now using WIPO's IPAS4.0 and IP Office Suite of business software solutions, including 25 in Africa and 20 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In addition to supporting national IP offices in their work, we continue to provide lawmakers with the data that they need to make informed policy choices around national IP and innovation strategies.
At the global level, WIPO’s Global Innovation Index is well established as a world-leading resource and reference guide for understanding the state of more than 130 innovation ecosystems around the world.
And at the more technical level, we have updated our Patent Landscape Report on COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics to provide further insights on patenting activity related to the pandemic, and to contribute constructively to the important discussions on IP and global health.
Beyond reports and data, many of you know that WIPO GREEN is the biggest and most sophisticated climate-tech platform offered by a UN agency today.
It now covers 130,000 technologies from over 140 countries, with WIPO GREEN’s Acceleration Projects helping to advance climate-smart agriculture in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru; boost energy efficiency in China; and support the greening of palm oil production in Indonesia.
Many of you have asked that we do more in this area. We have certainly heard you, and we will be exploring ways to do so.
Pillar four is about using IP to drive growth and development.
As part of our vision in the MTSP of building a more inclusive IP ecosystem, we have transformed how we provide development assistance.
Of course, our established ways of helping you use IP for development continues to be important.
For example, WIPO’s legislative support reached close to 60 countries last year, and we helped 25 Member States to formulate, and in many cases, implement, their national IP strategies.
Our work in building capabilities also continues to grow.
The WIPO Academy is now the world’s largest IP training institute and academy, training over 1 million people since its inception and over 220,000 people in the last 2 years.
We continue to evolve and broaden our offerings from more traditional IP courses directed at IP professionals to the imparting of practical IP skills targeted at entrepreneurs, researchers, teachers, and exporters. One of our greatest hits last year was a course directed at IP for Diplomats and Trade Officials.
Alongside the WIPO Academy, our network of IP Training Institutes (IPTIs) also continues to grow. We now have 14 IPTIs around the world, with a further 13 in development including in Algeria, Armenia, Ecuador, Ukraine and Viet Nam. Last year, almost 90,000 participants benefited from IPTI training around the world.
But alongside these types of established support, we are innovating our development assistance, and using both packages and projects to deliver impact on the ground.
On packages, during the pandemic, WIPO innovated by creating a COVID-19 Response Package to help Member States tap on WIPO’s expertise on IP and health issues and other issues as well. We are very pleased that 45 countries have tapped on the Covid package, which we will now transform into a recovery package so that Member States can use our services across the whole organization.
In Doha this year at the LDC 5 Conference, I announced an LDC Graduation Package to help LDCs that are graduating tap on IP, innovation and creativity as part of their graduation journey.
On projects, we have launched close to 90 all over the world. Many of them are connected to our work of building a more inclusive IP ecosystem and so the beneficiaries are those who have been underserved in the past – women, youth, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and indigenous communities.
For example, 120 women from 10 Latin American countries have benefited from our regional programs in support of women entrepreneurs and women in STEM, and we will soon begin the third phase of our mentoring and matchmaking program for Women Entrepreneurs from Indigenous and Local Communities, which has already touched the lives of over 90 women from over 50 countries. Meanwhile, we have just launched two new projects in support of 65 women entrepreneurs in Bangladesh and Pakistan, building on our successful projects in Jordan, Egypt and Namibia.
These projects are intense and last months instead of days, because our objective is not to impart theoretical IP knowledge, but to change lives and support livelihoods through IP.
I am also pleased that this work increasingly has south-south elements as well as inter-regional connections. For example, we recently launched a project in support of videogame developers. While this began life in the CEBS region, interest was such that the network quickly grew to encompass Asia and Latin American game developers as well. So through our projects we are building positive connections across the world.
We have also stepped up the support we provide to startups, SMEs and researchers.
Our WIPO IP Diagnostics Tool for SMEs has been accessed over 22,000 times in the first 18 months since launch, generating 3,000 customized reports for SME owners around the world and translated into 12 languages, with another 7 in the pipeline.
And over 52,000 SMEs from all parts of the world have benefited from WIPO Academy training over the past two years.
In the area of technology transfer, we are helping hundreds of thousands of researchers and innovators to protect, manage and create value through our network of over fifteen hundred Technology and Innovation Support Centers, active in over 90 countries.
Our work on gender remains important. Women make up half the world, but fewer than 1 in 5 inventors listed in patent applications filed before WIPO last year.
To catalyze action at the global level, on World IP Day this year, we published WIPO’s first ever IP GAP - our IP and Gender Action Plan.
This will see us generating new data around the IP gender gap, encouraging policy responses at the national and regional levels, and continuing to deliver impact driven projects - individually and in partnership - that support more women innovators and creators around the world.
Our work on youth has also picked up, with many projects and activities launched or to be launched. Examples include an IP Moot Competition for the first time, a youth IP Business bootcamp in Latin America and IP education games for youth in Africa. We intend to gather our work in support of youth coherently through a Youth Action Plan, and we will share this Plan in due course.
Building a more inclusive IP ecosystem also means connecting more with indigenous communities and helping them to use IP to bring their culture and heritage to the world.
We are supporting a wide variety of communities including groups in Antigua and Barbuda, Cambodia, Mexico, Oman, Senegal and Togo to protect, brand and commercialize their unique products through IP.
Projects are also being delivered on IP and Traditional Medicine in Ethiopia. IP and Tourism in Indonesia. And IP and Gastro tourism in Cameroon, Malaysia, Morocco and Peru.
And as someone who has music close to my heart, work is proceeding on the WIPO for Creators project, our public-private partnership with the music community to help new musicians understand and learn about how to use IP to earn a living and sustain their careers. Our plan is to hold a launch in Geneva later this year, and we invite more partners to join the WIPO for Creators movement.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is just a snapshot of the many ways that WIPO is working to support you, and the innovators and creators in your country. I am certain that in the course of this week, you will be engaging with my colleagues on many of the activities and initiatives that are of interest to you, and I welcome you to carry on these conversations.
The foundation on which our four pillars rest is the organizational strength of WIPO.
Financially, WIPO continues to be healthy in the face of challenging macro-economic environment. We ended last year with an overall surplus of 7.7 million Swiss Francs, and are projecting a stronger surplus for the next biennium. We will continue to use a results based management framework, and in this regard, I am pleased to share that over three quarters of our key performance indicators are on track to achieve their biennial targets.
It is said that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Our transformation of IP around the world is therefore being accompanied by an internal transformation journey at WIPO to build a more open, dynamic, proactive and collaborative work culture. This requires engagement and frank conversations, and this is why we now have a systematic process involving yearly surveys and discussions at all levels to identify and address concerns and engage with our employees.
We are also strongly aligned with the desire of you to see a more diverse workforce in WIPO, including equitable geographical representation and gender equality. I believe that the two are mutually supportive, and we are committed to moving the needle on this. But we cannot do this alone. Your partnership and interest in this matter, not just during the Assemblies, but throughout the year is critical to our shared objective.
I also want to thank Member States for your extensive engagement with the Program of Work and Budget for 2024-25. This has enabled us to make strong progress on the vast majority of areas during the recent PBC meetings, with this Budget a roadmap for continuing to raise the bar for what we deliver for you. .
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude by sharing some frank observations as your Director General.
As the pandemic recedes, new and unprecedented challenges have come to the front. At the same time, there seems to be a deterioration in the multi-lateral environment in which we collectively operate, and which is so crucial to the resolution of these challenges.
I therefore want to make an appeal to all of our Member States, to the representatives in this room and beyond, that as your Director-General I hope that we can together continue to treasure, uphold and support multilateralism. While it is not perfect, I believe I am echoing the view of many when I say that despite its flaws, we have no better way of ensuring that all of our interests are served, protected and advanced.
Lastly, let me take this opportunity on behalf of all my colleagues to thank you for your attention, support, encouragement, guidance and advice in our work, and to say that we deeply appreciate your engagement and interest in the transformation of WIPO and the global IP ecosystem
Dear Chair, let me wish you all the best as you shepherd us through this year’s Assemblies, and to you and to all Members, we in the Secretariat stand ready to facilitate and support all your discussions in the following days and towards a successful conclusion of the 64th Assemblies of WIPO.