What Is WIPO And What You Should Know About It?

What You Should Know About WIPO. WIPO is an abbreviation for “World Intellectual Property Organization” and was established in 1970.  It became a specialized agency of the United Nations, such as WHO, WHO, etc, in 1974 and Japan joined in 1975.

WIPO is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and has a variety of missions, but in a word it has the job of setting the direction of global intellectual property policy. There are 193 member countries (as of 2020) in WIPO. The secretary-general as of 2021 is Mr.Darren Tan. There is a WIPO Japan office in Tokyo.

The predecessor of WIPO is BIRPI (Bureau Internationaux Reunis pour la Protection de la Prorpiete Intellectulle). BIRPI was established in Bern, Switzerland in 1893. The first secretary-general was Georg Bodenhausen, who was well-known among patent practitioners and more widely as a legal scholar on the Paris Convention. Mr. Boden Hausen was from the Netherlands.

“Direction of World Intellectual Property Organization Policy” determines, for example, the establishment of treaties, the formation of national consensus at the WIPO General Assembly, the establishment of international guidelines, support and cooperation to each country, and the exchange of international information.

The “Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT)” is one of the key representative works of WIPO in the patent field. This treaty is based on the “PARIS CONVENTION, which forms the basis of the international protection of intellectual property rights in the world, and is a treaty that simplifies the protection of patents in many foreign countries from the perspective of formality matters and procedure. It is widely used when the citizens of the Contracting Parties seek protection of patents, etc. in foreign countries.

WIPO is very passionate about running the PCT. As the “founder of PCT”, they have a specialized department (PCT department). Since the treaty was enacted in 1971, they have been continuously making various reforms and amendments to make PCT a more user-friendly treaty. The PCT has been amended and has become a very elaborate “Law of Treaty”, including the main treaty law, rules, and a collection of forms that regulate the format of documents.

WIPO is an international organization, and WIPO employees are international civil servants. The staff is made up of people from all over the world, and those who are examiners and senior examiners in the Patent Offices in each country are also working in the form of being “seconded” to WIPO. For example, there seems to be a pattern of people working in the International Affairs Division of the Patent Offices of each country being dispatched to WIPO and working there for several years. Thus, true to its name, WIPO is truly a “worldwide organization”.

The WIPO headquarters is located in the suburbs of Geneva overlooking beautiful Lake Léman. The Geneva United Nations Office, WHO, Red Cross Headquarters, ITC and other buildings are in the immediate vicinity. The WIPO Headquarters Building is still expanding as the scope of WIPO’s activities expands.

What You Should Know About WIPO was this articles topic. In the next articles we look at the flow of “Patent Harmonization” in relation to WIPO.

By Takaaki Kimura

Managing Partner and Patent Attorney with over thirty-five years of IP law experience.