25 September 2008

WIPO: Francis Gurry's Appointment as Director-General

I am no sycophant but I am genuinely delighted that Francis Gurry has got the top job at the WIPO.  

I first heard of Gurry 20 years ago when I read his book on Breach of Confidence  which is to my mind one of the best books on the subject. It was published by Clarendon in 1984 but for some inexplicable reason it does not appear ever to have been reprinted.   I still refer to it from time to time.   

In 1992  I actually met Gurry at a seminar on IP arbitration which was organized by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Several things sprang from that seminar. Peter Ford set up an arbitration panel for the Patents County Court led by Professor Bryan Niblett which he asked me to join. Sadly, I never got any appointments but I don't think anybody else on the panel did either. Secondly, the WIPO set up the Arbitration and Mediation Centre.  The Centre was one of the first domain dispute resolution providers and having handled many thousands of domain name disputes it is arguably the most successful intellectual property ADR scheme of all time.   Its ability to deliver a decision withn weeks of a complaint for just US$1,5000 is probably indispensable to the smooth functioning of the domain name system and hence thje Internet.   I am proud to be one of the WIPO's UDRP panellists.   Gurry took a keen interest in the UDRP even after he had been appointed Deputy Director-General of WIPO and head of the PCT Secretariat. The high point of every UDRP panellists' meeting that I have attended has been his talk on future developments on IP, which is always given at the end of the seminar.

Possibly because the WIPO developed from a merger of the international bureaux set up by the Berne and Paris Conventions (see Major Events 1883 to 2002)  and its location in Switzerland the WIPO has always struck me as a predominantly continental, indeed Mitteleuropa, institution. It's an impression reinforced by the serious looking photos of previous Director-Generals just outside the loos on the ground floor of the WIPO building. Before Kamal Idris most of them seem to have been Teutonic. Cetainly, it was a very serious place.    I was brought up to pronounce each letter of its abbreviation separately, W - I - P - O, because the acronym "WIPO" suggested the trade mark of a domestic cleaning fluid.   Since "Sudan" and "levity" rarely appear in the same sentence it remained a pretty serious place under Kamal Idris.    As an Australian Gurry should lighten things up as well as inject some common law insights.
He seems to have got off to a good start with his acceptance speech. I wish him all the best.   

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