At WIPO, a world battle is at stake

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This week, the 83 Ambassadors of the World Intellectual Property Organization's Coordination Committee will nominate a candidate who will be called to lead the Organization from October 1. Six candidates (a Singaporean, a Chinese, a Kazakh, two South Americans and a Ghanaian) are still in the running).

The stakes are enormous and give rise to a battle of an incredible ferocity between the West, led by the United States, who took up the cause of the Singaporean candidate, Daren Tang, who theoretically is supposed to represent the developing countries to their dislike given that Singapore is no longer considered as a developing country. Meanwhile, China, represented by Binying Wang, who has worked for decades at WIPO and has held a senior position for many years. Recently, articles by John Bolton, former head of the Donald Trump Security Council, and Peter Navarro, his trade advisor, declared war on the Chinese candidate in very aggressive terms. The Chinese foreign ministry responded sharply by denouncing the American sabotage manoeuvres.

In its latest report on intellectual property indicators, WIPO confirms the spectacular dynamism of China. With 1.5 million patents filed in 2018, almost half of the world total, it is three times better than the United States. The same goes for industrial property applications, brands, designs and plant varieties. Better still, it has posted double-digit growth in all of these areas while its competitors have stagnated or regressed. Switzerland on the other hand ranks 9th in the world. We can see better now why the United States wants to block China’s path. As for the majority developing countries, they are left on the side lines as spectators.

On the other hand, WIPO, notably, is the richest international organization in the UN system. With 1,300 employees, a bi-annual budget of around 800 million francs and a pot of 400 million per year, appetites are wetting! Regrettably however, this is an organization which has been traumatized by years of ferocious internal struggles, a staff in revolt against the authoritarianism of its current Director General, efficient but extremely un-empathetic, too busy to arbitrate Western interests without upsetting the Chinese too much and to leave an exit door open in the hope of keeping a position of influence for the future. One number says it all: under his reign, the total number of directors at WIPO rose from 42 to 76 (one for 20 people!) and that of super-directors to 8… It is therefore urgent to do a little less politics and a little more management.

Who will win? In terms of influence, the Singaporean would count on the United States and the European Union (a quarter of the vote), but his abilities to lead are questionable. The Chinese has undoubtedly many years of experience, but, even if Chinese diplomacy is activated, she must face enormous resistance, especially at this time of coronavirus health crisis.

There remains a third candidate, who has been growing in influence little by little over the past weeks of whom everyone may agree on, the Ghanaian Edward Kwakwa. A graduate of Yale, supported by the African Union, he knows the house extremely well having been Legal Counsel of the organization through tumultuous times and presently leads the TK and Global Challenges Department there. He is appreciated by the staff and could, above all, avoid a devastating clash between great powers. In today's environment, it would be by far the most reasonable alternative. If reason prevails ... Let us hope that it does.


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  • According to Chinese familiar with the case, age is Ms. Wang's only “weakness“ in her candidacy.

  • " l'OMPI confirme le dynamisme spectaculaire de la Chine.... Avec 1,5 million de brevets déposés en 2018,..."

    Ben.... Avec ce qui leur tombe dessus? On attend LEUR vaccin.....

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