As all those interested in IP already know, the new DG of WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) will be elected on the 4th and 5th of March during an extraordinary session of the “Coordination Committee” where the representatives of the 83 Member States that make up the so-called COCO will cast their ballots.

Although at the beginning of the race to lead WIPO there were 10 candidates, 4 of them have already given up; the ones from Japan, Nigeria, Argentina and Estonia. Right now, there are 2 Latin American Candidates (Mr. Ivo Gagliuffi – Peru and Mr. Marco Alemán – Colombia), 3 Asian ones (Dare Tang – Singapore, Ms Wang Binying – China and Ms. Saule Tlevssova –  Republic of Kazahstan) and 1 African (Dr. Edward Kwakwa). Of course, all countries that make up the COCO  have their preferences, especially after having attended their presentations and interviews on the 6th and 7th of February. However, only the USA and the African countries have openly expressed them: After the withdrawal of the Nigerian candidate (Prof. Adebampo Adewopo) the African Union unanimously supports Dr. Kwakwa and several representatives of the USA have also clearly stated on several occasions that they utterly reject the Chinese Candidate. What’s more, there seems to be a coordinated effort by the US government to prevent WIPO from having a Chinese leadership. (see the following articles:   Techdirt, Hudson Institute,  “The Epoch Times”, Bloomberg, Heritage, US Department of State, National Review, Washington Post, CIS, Nikkei Asian Review, Le Monde)

One of the arguments put forward for such a hectic activity in the media against the Chinese candidate is “the catastrophic economic and national security implications” the Chinese leadership would have for the USA” (see article “Experts: US Must Stop China’s Takeover of UN Intellectual Property Agency WIPO” in “The Epoch Times”).

According to the former deputy director-general of WIPO, James Pooley, “the biggest problem is that there is a massive storage of trade secrets at WIPO”. This refers to PCT patent applications, which are published at 18 months from priority date (the first filing date). He also affirms; “the security is very strong, but for the guy with the key, the strong security doesn’t matter”. If that were the case, any other leader of WIPO could also gain access to those secrets. There must be security mechanisms that make those secrets impenetrable, no matter who the leader is.

Therefore, it is necessary to take this news with a pinch of salt. As an example, Pooley says, “Among those applications are certainly inventions with important military applications”. That would appear as a really serious menace.

However, all patent professionals know that most states classify those inventions that might be of interest for the national defence (See a previous entry about this issue). Once classified, those patent applications are not extended to other countries, so there is no way a PCT application on military inventions can be filed. Therefore, if someone happened to gain access to all those secrets, they would grab valuable information, but never military secrets.

Let’s hope that those who will elect next WIPO DG on the 4th and 5th of March are able to separate the wheat from the chaff and properly assess all those skills that a good leader of the UN IP Agency must possess, thus benefiting the IP world, and the world at large.

Leopoldo Belda


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