Statement on Media Reports Pertaining to Patent Applications from the DPRK

Geneva, May 22, 2017

In relation to a press statement by the US Mission to the United Nations in New York a WIPO spokesperson said:

“WIPO agrees with the US Mission that it is essential that all parts of the UN system, and all UN Member States, support the Security Council in its efforts to implement sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

As mentioned in its statement on May 16, 2017, WIPO’s understanding is that patents and other technology disclosures are not covered by UN Security Council sanctions.  Since the inception of the UNSC sanction regime for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in 2006, millions of patent applications have been filed annually worldwide either through WIPO’s PCT operations or directly through the patent offices of member states, and many thousands of patent applications have been filed in respect of sodium cyanide and/or Tabun. 

WIPO has confirmed with 1718 Committee staff that no UN Member State has ever notified the Committee of a patent application it received that might violate UNSCR 1718 Sanctions.

WIPO therefore looks forward to assisting the 1718 Committee with respect to any clarification necessary on the interpretation of UNSCR 1718 and its relationship to patents and other technology disclosures in order to ensure that all Member States and UN Specialized Agencies have a common understanding of 1718 sanctions.”

May 16, 2017

The article published by Fox News on May 15, 2017, entitled “UN agency helps North Korea with patent application for banned nerve gas chemical” is inaccurate and erroneous. The following facts should be noted.

  1. How the Patent Cooperation Treaty operates
    1. The PCT, an international treaty which presently has 152 Member States, simplifies the process of seeking patent protection in multiple countries, saving inventors time and money. It allows inventors to file a single international patent application in one language and meeting one set of formality requirements.  In addition, it provides the inventor, all Member States and the general public with a report on the potential patentability of the invention.
    2. The PCT is a “networked” system which provides for a clear division of labor between WIPO’s Secretariat and the patent offices of PCT Member States:  The WIPO Secretariat processes an application according to the Treaty’s procedural requirements; Member States make the decisions whether or not to grant a patent for the invention claimed in the application in accordance with their applicable national laws.
    3. The WIPO Secretariat does not grant patents and does not assist inventors in drafting, preparing, or otherwise refining a patent application under the PCT. 
  2. The patent system is an instrument of economic policy   
    1. The patent system grants exclusive rights for the commercial exploitation and use of the patented invention in return for disclosure of the invention.  
    2. By contrast, military inventions are typically kept secret and are not filed as patent applications since, if they were, they would eventually become public.
  3. Compliance with UN Resolutions
    1. The WIPO Secretariat has put strict procedures in place to ensure full compliance with all requirements in relation to UN Security Council sanction regimes and the Secretariat communicates with the relevant UN oversight committees as necessary. 
    2. Patent applications are not covered by the provisions of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR) 1718, 2321 or other resolutions related to the DPRK. 
    3. Member States implement their obligations under various UNSCRs similarly. For example, the USA, through its Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) General License 8 (which was issued prior to the publication of the DPRK applicant’s application), confirms that no form of intellectual property, including patents, is covered by US Executive Orders implementing sanctions against the DPRK.
  4. Background on the specific international patent application referenced in the Fox News article 
    1. A DPRK individual citizen applicant filed an international patent application under WIPO’s PCT system in respect of a process for production of sodium cyanide, a chemical used in many industrial processes.  This particular PCT application was received by the WIPO Secretariat in November 2015.
    2. Using the PCT procedures, the applicant selected China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) to conduct an international search assessing the chances for patentability of the invention in any of the PCT’s 152 Member States. 
    3. In June 2016, SIPO issued its preliminary and non-binding report, which concluded that the claimed invention was probably not patentable, as the technology covered by the patent application was more than 40 years old and appeared to lack an inventive step, one of the main requirements for patentability. 
    4. The WIPO Secretariat published these findings in December 2016, via its publicly available database, PATENTSCOPE, making the contents of the application and the assessment report available to the general public, including to all 152 Member States of the PCT. 

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 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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