Director General Opens Assemblies by Outlining Achievements in Past Year and Discussing Multilateralism in an Increasingly Complex IP Ecosystem

Geneva, October 3, 2016

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry reported excellent results in the Organization’s global intellectual property services and finances over the past year and urged member states to move forward with negotiations on the proposed Design Law Treaty.

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Speaking to representatives of WIPO’s 189 member states at the opening of the annual WIPO Assemblies, Mr. Gurry also discussed the future challenges facing the Organization with respect to the inherent complexities of intellectual property and multilateralism “in this new landscape of multi-speed and multi-layered complexity.”

Director General Francis Gurry at the opening of the WIPO Assemblies 2016 (Photo: WIPO).

Reporting on the last year, Mr. Gurry said the Organization’s global IP systems – the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT), the Madrid System for marks and the Hague System for designs “all performed well.”

The international design system, he said, is undergoing the most rapid growth (+40.6%) due to recent accessions of several major economies, and this was expected to continue. Geographical expansion of the Madrid and Hague systems would be a priority in the coming year.

Mr. Gurry also welcomed the September 30 entry into force of the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled and significant progress with the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) that supports the practical implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty.

Mr. Gurry said the ABC has so far facilitated the loans of accessible books to 100,000 visually impaired people through its 19 participating libraries in 16 countries and currently contains 319,000 titles in more than 76 languages.  By being able to download 5,500 electronic books into their collections, participating libraries were able to save USD 11 million in production costs (for a book read aloud by a person).

Other positive results over the past year included expansion of WIPO’s global databases and IT platforms, growing demand for WIPO’s capacity-building programs, and worldwide recognition of the Global Innovation Index which is jointly produced by WIPO.

Mr. Gurry also pointed to challenges in advancing the Organization’s normative agenda, including a proposed international treaty on design law formalities, and the long-running negotiations on broadcasting.

On the proposed design law treaty, the Director General said member states were close to reaching agreed positions, noting there was “only isolated resistance” on two unresolved issues.  “I very much hope that the member states will be able to bridge the remaining difference in this meeting and decide to convene the diplomatic conference in 2017,” Mr. Gurry said.

Mr. Gurry also referred to long-standing work relating to a proposed broadcasting treaty. “While some further progress has been made in the past year in the technical understanding of the issues and in defining a way forward, the time has come…for member states to decide in a definitive manner what they wish to do with this item.  I hope that the coming year will see such resolution demonstrated on the part of the member states,” he said.

In concluding his remarks, Mr. Gurry said the biggest challenge faced by the Organization is “complexity” given the role of intellectual property in a world where value increasingly resides in intellectual assets and in which technology and innovation are developing at accelerative speeds.

“This development is raising fundamental questions about the fitness of old categories to new phenomena, which we see reported on an almost daily basis in many areas ranging from the creative industries to the life sciences,” Mr. Gurry said.

Member states are developing at different speeds and are therefore legitimately striving to see how intellectual property is relevant to their challenges, he pointed out.

Mr. Gurry also highlighted “institutional complexity” where economies seek to advance their interests. “In consequence, we have seen the emergence of very active agendas in IP at the national, bilateral, plurilateral, regional and multilateral levels.  In an age of globalization, all these agendas affect each other,” he observed.

The WIPO Assemblies are being chaired by Ambassador Jānis Kārkliņš, who is also the Permanent Representative of the Mission of Latvia to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva.

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

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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 193 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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