WIPO Director General Opens

Geneva, September 14, 1999
Press Releases PR/1999/184

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Dr. Kamil Idris, opened on Tuesday the International Conference on Electronic Commerce and Intellectual Property, which will take place from September 14 to 16, 1999, before an audience of some 700 participants from industry, government, interest groups and the media. The Secretary of Commerce of the United States of America, the Honorable William Daley, gave a keynote address in which he highlighted the growing importance of electronic commerce for both developing and developed countries alike.

In his introductory remarks, Dr. Idris described the gathering as an "historic event" and welcomed the broad international participation at the Conference, which is the first of its nature to take an in-depth look at the cutting-edge issues of electronic commerce and its relationship to intellectual property.

With the conclusion of the so-called "Internet" treaties - the WIPO Copyright Treaty (WCT) and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty (WPPT) - in 1996, Dr. Idris said the international community had commenced the process of adjusting the intellectual property system to the digital economy. He said WIPO has been "working very hard to ensure the effective implementation of both treaties." Over the past year, WIPO's work in the economically important area of electronic commerce has grown. The Director General said "electronic commerce has therefore graduated from the preparatory, experimental stage to an economic reality with immense significance." He added, "we very much hope that this Conference will assist in better defining further adjustments that are necessary and issues that need to be addressed."

In his keynote address, Secretary Daley announced his country's ratification of the WCT and WPPT and urged other countries to follow suit. "As trusting as I am of e-mail, these papers were just too important, not to deliver personally. So, I am pleased to announce this morning I formally deposited our instruments of ratification. I understand just this summer, Hungary and Argentina passed implementing legislation. And I know we all look forward to the 15 members of the European Union joining us."

Dr. Idris welcomed the ratification of these two key treaties by the United States of America and urged other countries to speed up the ratification process to enable entry into force. At least 30 states must adhere to each of the treaties before they enter into force, which would herald a new era for copyright and related rights on digital networks and trade in products embodying such rights. At present, nine countries have ratified the WCT and seven countries the WPPT.

In addition, Secretary Daley underlined the vital nature of WIPO's work in today's "technologically-driven economy". "Especially as the Internet grows, WIPO will have an ever-increasing role to play. So I look forward to a global dialogue on all the intellectual property issues the Internet raises, " he added. Secretary Daley commended WIPO's work in trying to curb the abuse of trademarks on the Internet. Earlier this year, WIPO presented a series of recommendations to the Internet Corporation for the Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit international corporation formed to oversee a select number of the Internet's core technical management functions. The WIPO report addressed questions relating to domain names and intellectual property related dispute-resolution issues. Secretary Daley told the Conference that ICANN adopted WIPO's recommendations on a uniform dispute resolution policy. "WIPO demonstrated, once again, the key role it can play in solving the complex Internet issues. And I thank them for all the work they have done."

Secretary Daley said the only way the Internet will ever reach its potential "is if we strengthen its intellectual property protection." He observed that the only products that can be delivered on-line are intellectual goods, such as music, software, and literary works which benefit from copyright protection. He also underscored the benefits of using the Internet for electronic commerce for developing countries. Secretary Daley said the Internet offers artists from all over the world - developed and developing countries alike - the same opportunities for marketing their works.

The WIPO Conference will take an in-depth look at the global implications of electronic commerce, with a focus on intellectual property. WIPO has convened the meeting to promote a better understanding of the issues involved in electronic commerce and to focus attention on the effects of electronic commerce on intellectual property - and of intellectual property on electronic commerce. Intellectual property rights are of central importance in maintaining a stable and positive environment for the development of electronic commerce, which is rapidly and fundamentally changing the way business is being conducted, in ways previously unforeseen.

The Conference offers a variety and unique combination of speakers, ranging from government ministers and policy-makers to top executives of industry worldwide as well as senior representatives of public interest groups and non-governmental organizations.

The work program is divided into plenary sessions and workshops on specific issues. The plenary sessions will deal with general themes relating to e-commerce and intellectual property, such as trends in technology development, the business potential of e-commerce, developing countries and e-commerce, the legal aspects of e-commerce, and other policy issues. The workshops will focus on specific issues like:

  • On-line delivery of publications, music, films and software
  • Domain names and trademarks on the Internet
  • Music on-line
  • Electronic rights management
  • Cybersurveillance
  • On-line dispute settlement
  • Liability and on-line service providers
  • Films on-line
  • Security and authentication (encryption & digital signatures)
  • Digital libraries, patent and trademark databases
  • Museums on-line

For further information, see Press Release 183 or please contact Media Relations & Public Relations Section at WIPO: