WIPO stands for the World Intellectual Property Organization, an agency of the United Nations formally established in 1967 and headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. WIPO’s stated mission is to “promote the protection of intellectual property throughout the world”. WIPO is different from many other UN agencies, chiefly in that it has its own system of funding derived from the collection of fees. In fact, over 90% of it’s roughly 500 million Swiss Franc annual budget is sourced from International Bureau (IB) fees provided by the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the Madrid System for Trademarks and the Hague System for Industrial Designs. Even so, WIPO is a formal UN agency and its regulations are decided on by organized votes of member UN states. In the case of WIPO, the great majority of UN member states participate in the organization with notable exceptions being several Pacific Island states, the Palestinian Authority and Taiwan.
The US and other major industrial nations have taken issue with WIPO on many occasions due to its dominance by smaller, non-industrial and developing nations whose interests often diverge regarding the protection of intellectual property rights. This is a function of WIPO’s “one state, one vote” system which is in common with the basic principles of the United Nations. By the late 1980s, concerns about software piracy, use of previously printed content on the Internet and other issues unforeseen by the Convention Establishing the World Intellectual Property Organization in 1967 have driven developed nations to pursue remedies for perceived intellectual property infringement; first under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) and subsequently through the World Trade Organization (WTO). WIPO continues to evolve in response to the changing nature and application of intellectual property, as well as to challenges to the intellectual rights of companies, nations and individuals. Pressures have also been mounting from developing countries who seek to break down what many consider to be a protectionist mentality, especially in regards to new medical and pharmaceutical technologies that are in demand by poorer nations. In 2004, the Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization was issued by a broad coalition of organizations and individuals with the intent of directing the attention of WIPO to the concerns of developing countries regarding current and future intellectual property policies.
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