The United Nations Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to promote and develop constructive relations between the United Nations and civil society organizations.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is dedicated to helping to ensure that the rights of creators and owners of intellectual property (IP) are protected worldwide and that inventors and authors are, thus, recognized and rewarded for their ingenuity. The intellectual property system offers a number of safeguards and incentives that act as a spur to human creativity, extending the boundaries of science and technology and enriching the world of literature and the arts. By providing a stable environment for the marketing of intellectual property products, it also help to promote international trade.
WIPO undertakes activities in three main areas, namely (i) the progressive development of international intellectual property law; (ii) assistance to developing countries to build intellectual property capacity at national and regional levels and encourage more effective use of IP as tool for economic development; and (iii) services to industry and the private sector to facilitate the process of obtaining intellectual property protection in multiple countries.
WIPO works in close cooperation with its 184 Member States to promote intellectual property around the globe and to ensure that all members are in a position to reap the benefits of an effective and affordable system of IP protection to promote wealth creation and economic development.
The emergence of the knowledge economy means that IP issues are critical to national, regional and international policy-making in most areas of economic endeavour. WIPO has made the demystification of intellectual property one of its key priorities in line with its commitment to building consensus and inclusive dialogue with all stakeholders. The Organization’s long-term objective is to establish an IP culture built on a broad-based understanding of IP and respect for IP rights. While WIPO’s outreach efforts continue to target government leaders and policy makers, creators and entrepreneurs, the Organization is also working to reach out to the public and educate them about the importance and value of individual creativity and innovation and to enlist their participation in the creation of an IP culture that promotes appreciation and respect for such efforts.
Led by a Director-General, Mr. Francis Gurry, WIPO has a staff of some 950 from 89 countries.
WIPO has established liaison offices in Brussels, New York, Washington D.C. and Singapore as strategic channels through which to strengthen contacts with the international IP community, industry leaders, NGOs, and civil society. These offices develop mutually beneficial working relations and coordinate closely with organizations that lie outside of WIPO’s traditional scope of consultation and cooperation, but are now emerging as valuable new partners for WIPO.
Activities typically involve briefing representatives of industry, business and professional associations, civil society and NGOs, including workshops, symposia and seminars on IP in general, specific aspects of IP of direct concern to them, and on WIPO’s role in the promotion and protection of IP.
Since its beginning, WIPO has cooperated with NGOs working in the field of intellectual property. Over 250 NGOs (both national and international) currently have observer status at WIPO meetings.1 These include a wide range of groups from industry and civil society. The procedure for obtaining observer status involves submitting a written request to the WIPO Secretariat. NGOs with observer status are automatically invited to participate in all WIPO meetings, including technical meetings which deal with issues of substantive intellectual property law, such as the Standing Committee on the Law of Patents (SCP) and the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR). NGOs play an increasingly active and important role in debates surrounding the setting of intellectual property standards at the international level.
WIPO is unique within the UN system insofar as it provides a number of fee-paying services to industry and the private sector. This enables the Organization to generate a significant proportion of its income and further results in close links with industry and the private sector who are the main users of these services. These include the Patent Cooperation Treaty which facilitates the process of obtaining patent protection in over 125 countries;2 the Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks;3 the Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs;4 and the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, and arbitration and mediation services offered by the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center.5 Given the territorial nature of intellectual property rights (IP rights have legal effect only in the country or region in which they are granted), these services provide a cost-effective and efficient option for inventors and businesses who are seeking IP protection in multiple countries.
Extent of Collaboration
Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) Programme
One of the key messages of WIPO is that intellectual property is a strategic tool to promote economic, social and cultural development. In an attempt to encourage broader and more effective use of the system, the Organization has in recent years initiated a number of new programmes to raise awareness about the strategic value of IP among groups that have not optimally embraced the system. WIPO’s work with SMEs is one such programme.
It is designed to improve the awareness and understanding among governmental, private and civil society institutions worldwide enabling them to formulate and implement policies, programmes and strategies to enhance the strategic use of IP assets by innovators and SMEs.
The programme compiles and disseminates guidelines, best practice models and case studies for inventors, creators, academia, entrepreneurs and SMEs through various media, papers, CD-ROMs and the Internet. For example, in 2004, the first two short guides in the Intellectual Property for Business Series namely, “Making a Mark” on trademarks and “Looking Good” on industrial designs were customized and/or translated in more than 50 countries across the globe. The programme also assists SME associations, innovation centre networks, business incubators, universities, R&D institutions, professional associations, and chambers of commerce in providing IPrelated support services to their members and constituencies. Training programmes for key partner institutions and business service providers on IP are also organized. The SME programme maintains an international network of partners that includes a range of national SME support and finance institutions worldwide, UN organizations, national and regional IP offices, and copyright administrations/organizations.
The role of IP systems in relation to traditional knowledge (TK), and how to preserve, protect and equitably make use of TK, is receiving growing attention in a range of international policy discussions. These address matters as diverse as food and agriculture; the environment, notably the conservation of biological diversity, health, including traditional medicines; human rights and indigenous issues; and aspects of trade and economic development.
While the policy issues concerning TK are broad and diverse, the IP issues break down into two key themes:
* Defensive protection of TK, or measures which ensure that IP rights over TK are not given to parties other than the customary TK holders. These measures have included the amendment of WIPO-administered patent systems (the International Patent Classification system and the Patent Cooperation Treaty Minimum Documentation). Some countries and communities are also developing TK databases that may be used as evidence of prior art to defeat a claim to a patent on such TK; and
* Positive protection of TK, or the creation of positive rights in TK that empower TK holders to protect and promote their TK. In some countries, sui generis legislation has been developed specifically to address the positive protection of TK. Providers and users may also enter into contractual agreements and/or use existing IP systems of protection. WIPO’s work on TK, genetic resources and traditional cultural expressions (TCEs) is founded on extensive consultation with representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities and other NGOs. Work in this area began in 1998. The first step was to listen first hand to the needs and expectations of some 3,000 representatives of 60 TK-holding communities around the world whose insights and perspectives continue to guide WIPO’s work.7
Many events organized by WIPO in this area involve representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities and other stakeholders. Since the WIPO Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folkore (IGC) was first convened in 2001, special attention has been paid to enhancing the participation of indigenous peoples and local communities in its work. Over 150 NGOs have been especially accredited to the IGC. Many of these represent indigenous communities and other holders of TK and TCEs. Other steps have included the convening of an indigenous consultative forum, tailored NGO briefings, consultations on IGC materials under development, as well as the creation of a dedicated webpage for accredited observers to post their perspectives, comments, technical papers, national experiences and similar documents on issues under discussion by the IGC.8
Working in cooperation with other international organizations and in dialogue with NGOs, WIPO, in the context of the IGC, provides a forum for international policy debate concerning the interplay between IP and traditional knowledge, genetic resources, traditional cultural expressions (folklore). WIPO’s work in this area ranges from the international dimension of TK and cooperation with other international agencies to capacity building and pooling of practical experience in this complex area.9
Name: Mr. Sherif Saadallah
Title: Executive Director, Department of External Relations
Address: 34 chemin des Colombettes, CH-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland
1. WIPO Website: (www.wipo.int)
2. Further information on how to apply for observer status: (www.wipo.int/members/en/admi...)
3. Information on the Patent Cooperation Treaty: (www.wipo.int/pct/en)
4. Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks: (www.wipo.int/madrid/en)
5. Hague System for the International Registration of Industrial Designs: (www.wipo.int/hague/en)
6. WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center: (http://arbiter.wipo.int/center)
7. SME Programme: (www.wipo.int/sme/en). Subscription to a monthly e-newsletter that provides practical information on IP for SMEs is available on this website.
8. A comprehensive report of the consultations with indigenous people is available online: (www.wipo.int/tk/en/tk/ffm/re...)
9. IGC website: (www.wipo.int/tk/en/igc)
10. Traditional Knowledge: (www.wipo.int/tk/en/tk)
* Information on the WIPO Worldwide Academy: (www.wipo.int/academy/en).