By Emmanuel Legrand
The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has a new designated Director General in the person of Daren Tang, the current chief executive of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS). Tang was elected by WIPO's 83-member Coordination Committee on March 4 after two rounds of voting from an initial list of six candidates, with Tang getting 55 votes against Binying Wang of China, who received 28 votes.
Tang will be confirmed by WIPO's General Assembly at an extraordinary session on May 7-8, 2020. He will replace on September 30, 2020 outgoing Director General Francis Gurry, who served as DG since 2008 for two six-year terms.
Francis Gurry (left) and Daren Tang (Picture: IPOS)
The election of Tang is a victory for the United States that campaigned heavily against China's candidate. “We are very pleased with the election outcome," said Andrew Bremberg, the US ambassador to the United Nations, who added that the "overwhelming vote was a clear demonstration of the importance of protecting intellectual property and the entire independence of WIPO in the international community."
A first for Singapore
"This is the first time a Singaporean has been nominated for the leadership position of a UN Agency," said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
Tang commented: “I am humbled and honoured by the nomination of the WIPO Coordination Committee as the DG-nominee ... There were many well-qualified candidates who contested through a fair, open and transparent process."
In a letter to WIPO’s coordination committee on Nov 6, Singapore Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan praised Tang's expertise and for transforming ISOS from “a regulator into an innovation agency with IP expertise and networks.”
A forum for IP issues
WIPO is the main international body dealing with IP issues. Its core business is to manage the world's patent registration system, but the 193-member Geneva-based agency is also the forum for discussions on a wide range of IP and copyright issues. WIPO has recently started a process to evaluate the impact of Artificial Intelligence on copyright legal frameworks. It is also the forum where a possible treaty on the resale rights for visual artists is being discussed.
WIPO administers 26 treaties that provide an international framework to copyright and IP issues, including the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works from 1886, the Rome Convention for the Protection of Performers, Producers of Phonograms and Broadcasting Organisations, the Convention for the Protection of Producers of Phonograms Against Unauthorized Duplication of Their Phonograms (1971), and the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances (2012).
WIPO's budget is not funded by its members but by the proceeds from the patent filing fees. WIPO's revenues for 2020-2021 are expected to be in the region of 880 million Swiss francs ($921m).
The election of Tang was greeted by Mitch Glazier, Chairman and CEO of the Washington, DC-based Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). "Copyright protection and enforcement is a critical driver of global job growth, economic development, culture and trade, and WIPO plays a critical role in assuring the world’s creators are granted exclusive rights to their property," said Glazier. "It is vital to the music community that creators receive fair value for their work and music fans have access to legitimate content. We look forward to working with Mr. Tang on this essential mission.”