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WIPO Lex: Building the World’s IP Law Database

August 2016

By Alexander Matveev, Global Infrastructure Sector, WIPO

In just over five years, WIPO Lex, a unique global database of intellectual property (IP) laws and treaties of over 190 countries, has become a trusted and invaluable legal research tool. Attracting 1.8 million users annually, it is effectively the primary world reference source for IP legislation. So what is it that makes it stand out and what else lies in store for its future development?

A truly global information asset

WIPO is committed to being the world reference source for IP information and analysis, and WIPO Lex is a key part of that strategic goal. The aim is to create a comprehensive, user-friendly and free-of-charge collection of all the IP laws and regulations covering the member states of WIPO, the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In addition to national laws, WIPO Lex includes international and regional treaties plus a growing number of bilateral agreements relating to IP. As well as current laws, it includes historical regulations that have been superseded or amended. All of these legal texts are enhanced through bibliographic notes and hyperlinked cross-references and it is all free-of-charge.

The result is a rich and extensive collection. WIPO Lex currently contains over 13,000 documents from over 190 countries, and coverage is set to grow as laws are updated and more information is added.

“WIPO Lex, for the first time, offers a complete picture of the different national and international approaches to intellectual property issues and, in the digital era, it will certainly become an essential tool for lawyers and legal scholars throughout the world,” says Dr. Aladar Sebeni, Executive Director of the Institute for International Business Law, Fribourg University Law School, a WIPO Lex partner.

Ensuring user-friendly access

But sheer quantity of information is not enough to make a world-class information resource: the quality of the interface is also crucial. WIPO Lex is designed to help users find the material they need quickly and conveniently. Users can search by country and/or subject matter, or through a free-text search engine. Search results are then presented according to a standard hierarchical structure that makes it easy to understand each legal text in its wider context: from constitutional or basic law through to primary IP laws, IP-related laws and implementing rules and regulations, as well as information on participation in relevant treaties. Within each category of that hierarchy, laws are shown in reverse chronological order, so that users can easily see the current law while also tracing its historical evolution if required.

Structure and Content of WIPO Lex, as of March 1, 2016 (Source: WIPO).

The WIPO Lex interface is available in the six official languages of the UN – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish – while documents themselves are included in their original language with translated versions where available. At present, the collection comprises texts in 79 languages.

A diverse worldwide user community

Anyone can use WIPO Lex. It is free of charge and now attracts more than 1.8 million users annually, effectively making it the primary world reference source for IP legislation. Users come from many different backgrounds.

WIPO Lex is designed to help users find the material
they need quickly and conveniently. Users can search
by country and/or subject matter, or through a free-text
search engine. Search results are presented according
to a standard hierarchical structure to make it easy to
understand each legal text in its wider context
(Source: WIPO).

Along with legal professionals such as IP attorneys, IP law-makers and judges, they include students, researchers, inventors, investors, artists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, scientists and other sectors interested in IP, starting with IP offices and international organizations around the world. 

The geographical spread of the user community is also very broad, reaching every country and spanning every continent. Importantly, while it includes users from both developed and developing countries, its use is growing fastest in developing countries. The Philippines, for example, has shot up the rankings of most active WIPO Lex country users, rising from twenty-sixth position in 2010 to second in 2013, 2014 and 2015. This is encouraging because IP policy and education play a crucial role in the development of knowledge-based economies and in fostering innovation. By helping to bridge the IP-knowledge gap between developed and developing countries, WIPO Lex is proving to be a very useful development tool.

Evolution through partnership

WIPO Lex is reviewed and updated by a multilingual team of specialists who receive information from national IP offices, academics and professionals from across the globe.

The WIPO Lex team has also established partnerships with prestigious academic institutions, including Renmin University (China), East China University of Political Science and Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), Meiji University (Japan), the Russian State Academy of Intellectual Property and the Russian Foreign Trade Academy, the Institute for International Business Law of the Fribourg University (Switzerland), and Vanderbilt University (USA). These partnerships are central to the success of WIPO Lex and its future growth.

WIPO Lex is an efficient and indispensable education tool for research programs.

Professor A. Bliznets, Rector of the Russian State Academy of Intellectual Property

Increased globalization and rapid technological advances have brought about rapid changes in IP legislation in many countries. In this context, WIPO Lex partners are an essential source of reliable guidance on the latest IP-related legislative developments and provide access to many talented researchers willing to analyze the increasingly dynamic and complex legal systems of countries around the world. 

These partnerships also help to ensure that WIPO Lex is used by an expanding network of IP academics and practitioners alike.

“WIPO Lex is an efficient and indispensable education tool for research programs. That is why we have entered a partnership agreement with WIPO to contribute to further enhancing it,” notes Professor Ivan A. Bliznets, Rector of the Russian State Academy of Intellectual Property. “Over the last three years, the WIPO Lex database has become a valuable knowledge resource and has evolved into a comprehensive and reliable legal data collection of global significance, widening the scope for comparative studies,” he adds.

WIPO Lex is free of charge and anyone can use it. With fastest growth in developing countries, WIPO Lex is helping to bridge the IP-knowledge gap. Since its launch just over 5 years ago, it has become the primary world reference source for IP legislation (Source: WIPO).

Partner universities have committed to further strengthen ties by recommending WIPO Lex-related research topics to their students and PhD candidates, and by hosting an increasing number of WIPO Lex information sessions and establishing dedicated WIPO Lex hubs providing free access to comprehensive and up-to-date legal resource.

“The opportunity to work on WIPO Lex and help develop it has provided Vanderbilt students with incredibly useful and rich insights into the tools and methods of international IP research and valuable skills of working in the intergovernmental context,” says Dr. Daniel J. Gervais, Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University Law School.

As IP laws continue to evolve, so WIPO Lex will expand and so too will WIPO bolster its position as a global provider of IP information.

WIPO Lex is available free-of-charge at: www.wipo.int/wipolex.

Sign up to WIPO Lex News for the latest IP legal developments.

The WIPO Magazine is intended to help broaden public understanding of intellectual property and of WIPO’s work, and is not an official document of WIPO. The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of WIPO concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. This publication is not intended to reflect the views of the Member States or the WIPO Secretariat. The mention of specific companies or products of manufacturers does not imply that they are endorsed or recommended by WIPO in preference to others of a similar nature that are not mentioned.