Sunday, December 8, 2013

Four candidates compete to head WIPO

WIPO has announced that the deadline for nominations has now passed, and four candidates will compete for WIPO's top job as Director General: the incumbent, Francis Gurry (Australia), Geoffrey Onyeama (Nigeria), Alfredo Suescum (Panama), and Jüri Seilenthal (Estonia). IP Watch reports.

IP Watchdog speculates that the US will support the re-election of Gurry.  Australia has been a strong US supporter in recent TPP negotiations.  At the same time, there is also some US opposition to Gurry's re-election.  Gurry is responsible for “signing, sealing, and delivering” new IP norms–including a new Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities, the first WIPO treaty ever to focus on access, rather than on granting new rights to intellectual property holders.

 Two of the candidates, Francis Gurry and Geoffrey Onyeama, are WIPO insiders, while the other  two have experience in other international organizations; Suescum is the chair of the WTO TRIPs Council, while Seilenthal, a career diplomat, served a 7-month term as president of UNCTAD.

Suescum's experience as chair of the TRIPS Council has not been without controversy; the Our World Is Not for Sale (OWINFS) Network and LDC Watch in May called on Suescum to "immediately cease facilitating the bullying of the LDCs in the TRIPS negotiations".
Suescum was eventually praised for brokering a compromise that extended the deadline for LDCs to meet their TRIPs obligations.

IP Watch notes that the fact that WIPO was recently headed by an African may work against Onyeama, and that the fact that the WTO is currently headed by a Brazilian may work against Suescum, although, on the other hand, WIPO itself has never been headed by a member of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries (GRULAC).

Francis Gurry
Geoffrey Onyeama
Alfredo Suescum
Jüri Seilenthal
Group B
African Group
Current Position
Chair of WTO TRIPs Council; Ambassador to the World Trade Organization
Ambassador to the United Nations and other organizations in Geneva
WIPO Experience
-on the WIPO top management team from 1997 as Assistant Director General, then Deputy Director General before becoming Director General
-joined WIPO in 1985
-appointed Director of the Cooperation for Development Bureau for Africa in 1999
-appointed Director of the Cooperation for Development Bureau for Africa in 1999

Former chair of the WIPO Coordination Committee
Other Int'l Org. Experience

former President of UNCTAD; active in ITU
LLB, LLM (University of Melbourne)
PhD (Cambridge)
educated in the US
educated in Estonia and Sweden
Private Experience
practiced as an attorney in Australia, and taught law at the University of Melbourne, Australia. 
-worked for Nigerian Law Reform Commission; was solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria