Intellectual property rights are a hot topic for businesses around the world.
As the monetization of information continues to take center stage in the business community, the importance of intellectual asset protection in the U.S. and around the world is rapidly becoming a core business function.
WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) was created to facilitate the protection and dissemination of intellectual property in a global context. Traditionally, international intellectual property rights have been a gray area of international law, further complicated by the fact that intellectual property rights are treated differently in each international legal jurisdiction.
But despite its mandate to streamline international IP rights, WIPO has experienced no small amount of controversy. Although the future of WIPO is far from certain, here is what the average business owner needs to know about its origins and current functions.
WIPO was established in 1967 as an agency of the United Nations. It's stated purpose was to "to encourage creative activity, to promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world." According to its website, WIPO is dedicated to the creation and maintenance of a reliable and accessible international IP system for the purpose of rewarding creativity and innovation while at the same providing an assurance of IP protection. Located in Geneva, Switzerland, WIPO currently consists of 184 member states and is involved in the creation and administration of more than 24 international IP treaties.
Its location within the United Nations has made WIPO a highly controversial organization. As a U.N. agency, WIPO is subject to the same operational requirements as any other U.N. body, meaning that each member's vote carries the same weight, regardless of the size of its country, population, or economy. Since various factions within the U.N. have different philosophies about intellectual property rights, industrialized nations often find their attempts to advance IP treaties and conventions thwarted by member nations in under-developed regions of the world.
In the 1980s, the U.S. and several other industrialized nations transferred the negotiation of many international IP agreements out of WIPO and into GATT (now the World Trade Organization), which is more amiable to the IP concerns of industrialized nations.