Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO discusses the role of WIPO and the challenges they face




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Video title: Francis Gurry, Director General of WIPO discusses the role of WIPO and the challenges they face
Released on: July 20, 2011. © PharmaTelevision Ltd
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In this episode of PharmaTelevision News Review, Fintan Walton talks to Francis Gurry, Director General of World Intellectual Property Organization
Role and purpose of WIPO
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaTelevision News Review here at the LESI Conference in London, in 2011. On this show I have Francis Gurry, who is Director General of the WIPO a specialized agency of the United Nations, welcome.
Francis Gurry:
Thank you.
Fintan Walton:
So what is the sole purpose Francis of the WIPO?
Francis Gurry:
Well the sole purpose, the machine the centre matching is the promotion of the protection of intellectual property around the world and this of course to encourage innovation and cultural creativity. We have several sectors of activity one is that we make it easier for enterprises essentially to get intellectual property protection, we have systems that make it the way where you can file a single international application rather than a 180 under that 160,000 international patent applications are filed each year, 40,000 international trademark applications and a lesser number of international design applications. Then we have the development of the global legal framework, we enabling legal framework for intellectual property standard rules, we administrate over 20 treaties and we have a number of projects for the development of new international rules, then we coordinate global infrastructure database the technical IT standards and the last segment or sector of activity is enhancing the capacity of developing countries to participate in the system.
Fintan Walton:
Right, so in somewhere you just want the whole system are hubbed?
Francis Gurry:
Indeed.
Fintan Walton:
In terms of intellectual properties obviously as you've just said there are quite a number of member states already over 180 each of them have got their own legal system you've mentioned that already of course each individual state has its own challenges that in itself must mean there it's a big challenge that you have in order to make this system hub?
Francis Gurry:
Very difficult, it's very difficult to get international agreement in the best of times, now we see the system is very much in transition is in profound transition I would say, first of all this is the knowledge economy you know the expanding component of knowledge in production which means that rights in relation to intellectual property are more and more sort after we have a round about 1.9 million international patent applications found around the world each year, 3.3 million trademark applications, 700,000 industrial design applications in all the countries of the world making the mechanics work is already a big task you know to avoid duplication, to have appropriate work sharing, to have appropriate efficiencies in the system to reduce transaction costs. Second major area of change profound change is geopolitics of course with the rise of the emerging countries in particular China in this area the geography of technology production is changing very much and there it is more and more difficult to get a agreement I think because it was in a certain respect we have the political architecture that corresponds to an economy reality of the 1970's not the economy reality of 2011.
Coordination with WTO
Fintan Walton:
Right, now WIPO is a specialized agency of the United Nations so how do you work then, how do you operate, because obviously there is already the World Trade Organization are you with efficacy organization that lobbies governments to change legislation or how do you or do you work with the WTO or how do you actually achieve your endpoints?
Francis Gurry:
It's the other way around they lobby us to change in rules as it work. So you have the peculiar situation of having the same member states of the WTO the World Trade Organization and WIPO basically the same as few lessened in the WTO and member states will essentially they behave like rational self-maximizers like the rest of us and they would choose the forum that is more appropriate for them, so at some stages it might be more appropriate to use WIPO for them, in some stage might be more appropriate to use WTO, amongst the secretariats we have very good cooperation and for example we have started at the instigation of Pascal Lamy, the Direct General of the WTO had tried power type cooperation between the WTO, the WIPO and the World Health Organization particularly in the area of pharmaceuticals where we have organized a couple of events together and we are doing, undertaking some studies together.
International patent system
Fintan Walton:
Now even within an area like your there has been difficulties to try and get harmony within in the patent area, I mean how would you summarize that now, where we have got to with respect to that?
Francis Gurry:
Well for Europe I can't really speak, I can't really speak for Europe because they are a component of our of the international system if you like, well I think they make great process towards the single patent, the single European community patent of course the main difficulty was the question of languages and translations and costs, but they are progressing with the idea of enhanced cooperation between all but two that is Spain and Italy towards having a single community patent.
Fintan Walton:
Right, and is there a solution to some of these problems having a world patent court which would be the arbitrator of all patents worldwide?
Francis Gurry:
Yes, it's very difficult, you can't have a world patent unless you have a world patent court, because if you have a single title who is going to be the judge of whether it's valid or not that's the question and that's the really the great difficulty and there I think frankly that we are a long way off, a long way off.
Fintan Walton:
Sure, yes and it's also interesting as you mentioned just simple language how is interpreted, and how it's translated from one with there just looking at it lets say with an example of licensing, a license agreement written in German first is one that's written in English can be completely different meanings and when it comes to actual patent equally important?
Francis Gurry:
Absolutely and terribly important issue, because now if you take the PCT that's The Patent Cooperation Treaty which we administer and the international patent system as an indicator of technology production and it's pretty good indicator about a third of the world's technology is produced in Chinese, Japanese and Korean now that are 20% Japanese, 19.5%, 7.5% Chinese, 65.9% Korean that's you know terrible important development because for the last several hundred years the language of technology production has been European basically and now you have this, so if you are operating in global markets you need to know what rights might be opposed to you so machine system translation is I think a project that the whole international community is focused on in various ways of course Google is leading it in many respects that we are all focused on this because it's very important in the area of technology.
Issue of Intellectual property rights in pharmaceutical industry
Fintan Walton:
Okay, now obviously you are on pharma television and our audience tends to be in pharmaceutical and biotech sector, I suppose pharmaceuticals highlights one of the issues of intellectual property where by intellectual property rights work very well within well developed nations, but when it comes to intellectual property for drugs and the price of those drugs in third world countries that itself presents challenges in another words a success in spreading intellectual property into areas slightly in the third world may actually not be counterproductive to the local population, is that a fair statement?
Francis Gurry:
Look I think there may, it's a multi dimensional problem this is really a digital problem, you have of course the problem I think essential problem are market failure you know that for some diseases there are unfortunately no purchasing consumers and therefore the market incentive to invest in research and development to develop the cures for those diseases is not present this leads to the circle of 10-90 gap that 90% of the research and development goes into 10% of the world's diseases which is symbolic roughly of the situation. This is terribly difficult situation, I think now what we are seeing is the pharma industry has moved a long way, it has many corporate social responsibility programs it's very different, but to some extent regrettably it's still judged by the image that it had 15, 20-years ago and not enough account, not enough I think merit is given consideration is given to the great progress that the pharma industry has made in finding creative ways to address these situations and market failure.
Fintan Walton:
Sure, and the other issue that the pharmaceutical companies and researchers even the universities have to face is the length of time that takes for products to get to market, because of the development time, you know obviously there is, there are different ways around that in terms of supplementary expansions and so forth, but is there ever a chance that a company can give be given greater extension because it's taking such a long time to get the product to market and particularly now when the FDA and the EMEA, the regulatory authorities are insisting on more clinical trials so the time to get a product to market is getting longer?
Francis Gurry:
Yes, well there is as you have mentioned a supplementary protection certificate which can add significant number of years depending on the length of time the regulatory approval process is taken, there is also there is so called data exclusivity rounds, so data exclusivity is something that is guaranteed under the trips agreement, but unfortunately is no international agreement just to how long the data exclusivity period is so you get vast very diverse differences around the world in any application of this, these are the two main I think protection devices for the pharmaceutical companies in the phase of this long regulatory process, of course one other thing you might do is to focus on the regulatory process rather than the patent side and to see to what extent you might find synergies between North America and Europe for example or North America, Europe and Japan or other parts of the world so is to have more single procedures.
Fintan Walton:
So the regulatory bodies are actually adding to the extent to which the process is done?
Francis Gurry:
Well it's a very necessary work of course a very, very necessary work, but when we think in terms of harmonization of patent procedures we could also think in terms of harmonization of regulatory procedures.
WIPO: Challenges over the next 5 years
Fintan Walton:
Sure, and as you've said earlier the WIPO is operating obviously worldwide you've got the challenges that you've got going forward what do you see as key events into the future now, let's say in the 5, 10-years what breakthroughs do you think will happen or would you like to see happen that will bring the whole area of intellectual property to even better organization?
Francis Gurry:
Look, you know I think there is several things it's very tempting question. One is I think the changing geography, changing geopolitics it at some future stage it might be 5-years, it might be 10-years you are going to have not just as we used to have North America, and Europe, and Japan one or two other countries that were producers of intellectual property, but you are going to have North America, you are going to have Europe, Japan, China, Korea, India, Brazil, Singapore and a few other countries around the world, so the landscape would be very different and I think it will be, I hope finally abandon this North, South debate that has permeated so much of the debate of our intellectual property it's not going to be any easier because intellectual property will be increasingly the basis of competition. So the stakes are going to be high and it's going to the sort of differences as you get between Europe and North America you'll get on a much more wide spread basis, but we would be able to move to I think a different and newer agenda with a much larger proportion of the world as producers of intellectual property, then I think one of the other things that we have to find a way of grappling what you said the outside world is moving so very quickly that for an international organization who's processes of getting agreement are necessarily very slow, because everyone has to be comfortable with what's happening and where we are going, that we are looking at the world disappearing over the horizon in the distance in many respects and we are running as fast as we can to catch it, but it's disappearing. So having a relevant agenda this is a major challenge for international organization having an agenda that meets the needs of industry.
Intellectual Patent system in China
Fintan Walton:
Right, and just on one subject area that obviously comes to people's mind particularly in research and development within the pharmaceutical industry is the area like China where they have obviously have signed up to WIPO obviously one thing to do is to sign up to, the other one is to have a patent system, then the other one is to have it proven within the courts within China, so where are we with that at the moment and what's your vision for that?
Francis Gurry:
Look I think that made enormous progress you know and it's only 25-years since they enacted their patent law and in 2008 China filed more intellectual patent applications than the UK, 2009 more than France and on that base it went up by 56% in 2010 so that it now files more than the France and the UK put together. So China has arrived it is a producer of intellectual property and what does that mean? It means that it will increasingly find reasons to protect it. It's in its own interest to protect it, now of course China is a vast and diverse country its first world and the third world depending on where you happen to find yourself, so the process of getting smooth implementation across the whole of the vast country like China is a longer-term process, but I am optimistic some of the interesting developments that you see on a minor level is you see two Chinese companies litigating against each other in Europe over intellectual property and you see another Chinese company I won't name them also litigating in against a European company that has taken over one of its licensees for over intellectual property, so we seeing a change there.
Fintan Walton:
Francis Gurry, thank you very much indeed for coming on the show.
Francis Gurry:
It's a pleasure Fintan.
Fintan Walton
Dr Fintan Walton is the Founder and CEO of PharmaVentures . After completing his doctoral research on the genetics of cell proliferation at the University of Michigan(US)and Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland), Dr Walton gained broad commercial experience in biotechnology in management positions at Bass and Celltech plc (1982-1992).
Francis Gurry
Director General
Francis Gurry is currently Director-General, World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO. Until recently he was Assistant Director-General and Legal Counsel of WIPO in Geneva where he was responsible for WIPO 's activities in the field of electronic commerce and the WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Center, as well as for international legal and constitutional questions and the Organization's relations with industry. Francis Gurry is a distinguished alumnus of the Melbourne Law School, holding an LLB and LLM from the University of Melbourne and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He is a Vice President of the International Federation of Commercial Arbitration Institutions (IFCAI). Before joining WIPO in 1985, he practiced as a solicitor in Melbourne and Sydney. Francis Gurry is the author of a textbook on the law of trade secrets and confidential information, Breach of Confidence, (Oxford University Press 1984, and re-printed 1990), and co-author, with Frederick Abbott and Thomas Cottier, of The International Intellectual Property System: Commentary and Materials (Kluwer 1999).
PharmaVentures
PharmaVentures is a corporate finance and transactions advisory firm that has served hundreds of clients worldwide in relation to their strategic deal making in the pharmaceutical, life science and healthcare sectors. Our key offerings include: Transactions / deal negotiations; Product / technology valuations; Deal term advice; Due diligence & expert reports; Strategy formulation; Alliance management; and Expert opinion for litigation/arbitration cases. PharmaVentures provides the global expertise to ensure our clients generate the highest possible return on investment from all their deal making activities. We have experience of all therapeutic areas and can offer advice on both product and technology commercialisation.
WIPO
The World Intellectual Property Organization WIPO is a specialized agency of the United Nations. It is dedicated to developing a balanced and accessible international intellectual property (IP) system, which rewards creativity, stimulates innovation and contributes to economic development while safeguarding the public interest. WIPO was established by the WIPO Convention in 1967 with a mandate from its Member States to promote the protection of IP throughout the world through cooperation among states and in collaboration with other international organizations. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. is an association of 32 national and regional societies, each composed of men and women who have an interest in the transfer of technology, or licensing of intellectual property rights - from technical knowhow and patented inventions to software, copyright and trademarks.