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WIPO Assemblies Finish with Applause for Outgoing Director General Francis Gurry

Geneva, September 24, 2020

Delegates from the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) 193 member states wrapped up their Assemblies meetings with a standing ovation for Director General Francis Gurry, whose second and final term as head of the Organization ends on September 30, 2020.

With the assembly hall crowd thinned due to COVID-19 safety restrictions, delegates in attendance rose to applaud Mr. Gurry during closing remarks at his last Assemblies meetings as Director General, with other delegations connecting remotely to thank Mr. Gurry for his contributions. This followed all delegations’ accolades during earlier general statements for Mr. Gurry’s outstanding 12-year stewardship of the Organization.

“It’s a privilege to be able to serve in an international organization, in any capacity, and certainly to serve as Director General. It's a great privilege because it's an opportunity for opening to the diversity of this world and to see - and this is particularly true as we all experience the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic - that we have a shared destiny,” said Mr. Gurry.


“And one of the roles of an international organization is to bring us around that shared destiny and see how we can confront it together in the best possible manner,” said Mr. Gurry. “My final word is my deepest gratitude to you all for the privilege of this opportunity that you have given me.”

Mr. Gurry will be succeeded by Mr. Daren Tang on October 1, 2020. In a speech on September 21, Mr. Tang congratulated Mr. Gurry on his achievements and pledged to use them as a foundation for future growth. “I would like to place on record my high admiration for the stellar results which you accomplished in the past twelve years and your lifetime of work to advance the Mission of WIPO. It is thanks to your leadership, and to the dedication of my future WIPO colleagues, that this Organization is deeply respected and highly valued,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of WIPO staff, Assistant Director General and Chief of Staff Naresh Prasad expressed a deep sense of appreciation to Mr. Gurry for his leadership of the Organization.  He said Mr. Gurry had transformed the Organization “into a modern, efficient, responsive but above all, an inclusive Organization.” Mr. Prasad said that through Mr. Gurry’s “untiring efforts and single-minded devotion succeeded in opening up this Organization to all its member states and its multiple stakeholders.” He said Mr. Gurry had also overseen the implementation of “a flurry of programs and projects which have been of interest to each and every stakeholder of WIPO.” This, Mr. Prasad said “will be Mr. Gurry’s lasting legacy and we thank him for this.”

The Chair of the General Assembly, Ambassador Omar Zniber, Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Morocco to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, joined other delegations in thanking Mr. Gurry for his dedicated service to the Organization.

In opening the Assemblies on September 21, the Director General presented a full report detailing WIPO's advances since he took office in 2008 for his first six-year term, while reporting on the as-yet muted effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on WIPO’s finances and warning that the diminished state of multilateralism poses a major challenge to the world. video

Among the work completed during the WIPO Assemblies (in order of the Agenda):

  • The Assemblies took note of WIPO’s positive financial results and the unqualified audit report for 2019, the Report by the WIPO Independent Advisory Oversight Committee and the Report by the Director of the Internal Oversight Division;
  • The Assemblies, having considered the PBC report, took note or approved the following:
    • The Progress Report on the Implementation of the Joint Inspection Unit’s (JIU) Recommendations;
    • The WIPO Performance Report 2018/19 and the Internal Oversight Division (IOD) Validation Report of the WIPO Performance Report for 2018/19;
    • The request to the Secretariat to seek further clarification on the financial and administrative impact of the invitation to join the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG);
    • Supplementary Capital Master Plan Projects amounting to CHF 1.792 million to be funded from the WIPO Reserves. The approved projects were critical to ensure that high priority IT investment needs were being addressed;
    • The Annual Financial Report and Financial Statements 2019 and the Status of the Payment of Contributions as at June 30, 2020 and the oral update on contributions received since September 1, 2020; and,
    • The Analysis on the Management of WIPO’s Funds-in-Trust, including the key principles, which will be reflected in WIPO’s revised internal Policy on Funds-in-trust.
  • The Assemblies took note of three items that required more time for extensive consultations both internally and with member states, which had not been possible to discuss at the 31st session of the PBC due to the COVID-19 pandemic and which would therefore be considered at the next sessions as follows:
    • Terms of Reference of the 2021 Evaluation of WIPO External Offices; Methodology for Allocation of Income and Expenditure by Union; and, Revised WIPO Policy on Languages.
  • Delegates requested the Director General to convene an extraordinary session of the Assemblies of WIPO during the first half of 2021, to consider, among others, matters related to WIPO Committees and international normative framework, as well as global intellectual property services.
  • Delegates noted continuing growth of the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, which is handling an increasing number of IP mediation and arbitration cases, as well as domain name disputes, with the popular WIPO-initiated UDRP procedure celebrating its 20th anniversary.
  • The Madrid and Hague Union Assemblies adopted amendments to their respective Common Regulations proposed by the Secretariat as part of its response to Covid-19 and aimed at fostering its ability to communicate electronically with users.
  • The Paris Union Assembly adopted guidance related to the right of priority during an emergency, like the current COVID-19 pandemic. While the guidance is non-binding, it provides a concrete response to the challenges faced by the Paris Union members during the pandemic. These include the illustration of circumstances that might be considered for priority period extension, consideration of other relief measures for applicants, such extension of time limits and restoration of rights, and consideration of how additional fees may be waived, bearing in mind global emergencies’ impacts on the economy.
  • The Marrakesh Treaty Assembly received an update on the progress of the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC) from the Director General. Among other highlights, the ABC catalogue currently has 640,000 accessible titles in 80 languages, with 585,000 titles available for cross-border exchange free from clearance formalities, and the ABC Global Book Service has 90 participating authorized entities that search for, request, and receive accessible digital books for their patrons. The Assembly also heard that the Marrakesh Treaty continued to be the fastest growing treaty in WIPO history, with 72 contracting parties covering 99 countries.
  • The Beijing Treaty Assembly met for the first time since the entry into force of the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances on April 28, 2020, when the 30th contracting party joined the Treaty. The Assembly adopted its rules of procedure and celebrated the entry into force of this historic agreement giving economic and moral rights to audiovisual performers in works like films, television programs and videos.  The Beijing Treaty Assembly was also the first assembly in WIPO history to be chaired remotely, with Chair Yan Xiaohong, who was instrumental in the success of the Beijing Diplomatic Conference that led to the adoption of the Treaty in 2012, guiding the meeting from Beijing.
  • Member states commended the work of WIPO staff, noting that WIPO had again increased its productivity while keeping a stable workforce. Moreover, member states appreciated the progress in geographic diversity and gender parity as well as WIPO’s exemplary response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other news during the Assemblies:

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the United Nations agency that serves the world’s innovators and creators, ensuring that their ideas travel safely to the market and improve lives everywhere.

We do so by providing services that enable creators, innovators and entrepreneurs to protect and promote their intellectual property (IP) across borders and acting as a forum for addressing cutting-edge IP issues. Our IP data and information guide decisionmakers the world over. And our impact-driven projects and technical assistance ensure IP benefits everyone, everywhere.

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