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- Issue 81: April 2009
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- Issue 72: June 2008

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More Drama at the Patent Office….

Garry Boyd
From an Intellectual Capital Perspective

Issue 72: June 2008
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The World International Patent Organisation (WIPO) a UN Agency based in Geneva, has elected Dr Francis Gurry as the next Director General. Dr Gurry, an Australian national who has called Geneva home for many years faced stiff competition from 13 others to win the coveted and prestigious position.
Some may think his less than emphatic 42/41 victory over Brazilian Graca Aranha might be seen as the passing of the proverbial poisoned chalice, given the controversy that has raged through the powerful corridors of the WIPO for some years.

The outgoing Director General Dr Kamil Idris, agreed to relinquish the august post 12 months prior to his term finishing amongst concerns about a lack of confidence in his leadership.
Claims of all manner of skulduggery have delivered the throne to Dr Gurry, a lawyer, who has the much needed expertise in arbitration and dispute resolution in his kitbag.
Further c laims of financial mismanagement and bribery have dogged the WIPO for some years, and somewhere along the line enough people must have thought enough is enough!

In the World of patency, dates are crucial, being on the right side of a date can be blissfully liberating, yet to be on the wrong side can be commercially and emotionally devastating……….we can only wonder in awe at the fact that Dr Idris, a Sudanese who has run WIPO since 1997 has two birthdates!
Dr Idris was apparently born in 1954, yet claimed to have been born in 1945, so that he could demonstrate sufficient experience to handle the top job……Phew!
How ludicrous that the WIPO, birthed in 1974 as a United Nations agency with an annual budget in excess of $200mil and a fanatical devotion to calendar dates appoints a man that enjoys two birthday parties every year to lead it in its quest to fulfil its mandate to promote the global protection of international property rights?
Never mind, the good Dr Idris then passed off the indiscretion as a “typo”……I guess that makes it OK..

WIPO, whilst being a little-known but important UN agency, is deeply imbedded in more than a century of international treaties and serves as a registry, database guardian and guide to international copyrights, patents, trademarks and intellectual property law….yet, this very important body has for years been wracked with controversy.

It must be some building, the WIPO headquarters in Geneva, because plans for a $50mil renovation led to plenty of muttering about possible bribery.
It was found that several million $$$’s were made from WIPO contractors to a Ghanaian fellow, one Michael Wilson, who had paid hundreds of thousands of $$$’s to a Swiss account (where else, you may ask?) held by a WIPO assistant Director Khamis Suedi.
Eyebrows were raised again when the good Dr Idris purchased a villa on the outskirts of Geneva and the Director of the WIPO Buildings Division was involved in the installation of a swimming pool.
The ensuing howling storm of discontent led to Ernst & Young conducting an external review in 2005. Although not finding any evidence of fraud, Ernst & Young saw fit to declare they did find “certain weaknesses in the management” that “might lead to irregularities being committed”.

At around this time, WIPO was staring a financial deficit in the face, despite the fact that in 1997, being the year of the Idris ascendency to the WIPO throne, a nice healthy surplus was evident.
Most damning is the fact that the fine upstanding Doctor passed off the “typo” of conflicting birthdates as genuine back in 1982 when he applied for a position at WIPO, but then continued to live the lie on official documents in the interest of “consistency”.

So, WIPO is not as financially sound as it once was……..notwithstanding $50 million big ones spent on a bit of a spruce up.
And IP Australia is, as I understand, no longer the cash cow it once was.

Whilst we all tend to mostly unfairly stamp our feet in protest at the charges inflicted upon us by Patent Attorney’s, the charges for services from IP Australia remain most reasonable by comparison.
The difference of course is that Patent Attorney’s generally deliver the goods, whereas IP Australia grinds along at a pace not dissimilar to the time it has taken WIPO to rid itself of Dr Idris……..well, when he finally goes on the 1st of October 2008…..hang on, let me check………yes, it is this year!

Don’t we all just shake our heads in dismay at how these things pan out? If the good Doctor worked (nearly) anywhere else he would have been burned at the commercial stake years ago.

Dr Gurry will become only the third Australian to head a United Nations agency, after James Ingram, Executive Director of the World Food Program from 1982 to 1992, and Richard Butler, Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union from 1983 to 1989.
Sounds like Dr Gurry has got the job in front of him, but after living in Geneva for 20 years and seeing off 13 others in a ballot that would make the College of Cardinals blink he might finally turn WIPO into something resembling an efficient organisation.

The next challenge for Patent offices around the World is to shorten examination periods.
The number of patents being filed matches the rate in which prescriptions are being issued is flying along at a rate that that would impress the sublimely talented Michael Schumacher.

Many Patent examiners and Pharmacists have one thing in common other than a science degree…………they are having trouble keeping up with the work load.

Garry Boyd.
June 2008.

 


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