The World Intellectual Property Organization, also called WIPO, is an organization dedicated to protecting the creations and ideas of people across the globe from theft and fraud. 

WIPO Background

Intellectual property, also known as IP, is a general term that refers to anything created by an individual that is original to that person. This includes properties found in industrial settings like:

  • Inventions
  • Processes
  • Patents
  • Trademarks 
  • Designs

IP also includes properties in the more creative marketplace like written and artistic works that are painted, sculpted, recorded, or otherwise created. More than one hundred years ago, you wouldn't have found an international organization interested in protecting IP. The laws in place today regarding intellectual property vary depending on the country. Inventions and creations of individuals were only protected by the state or country they were in at the time. As industry continued to grow and develop, people became more aware of the need to protect creativity and ingenuity in order to continue a strong economy. 

Two of the first steps toward global value and protection of IP were the Paris Convention in 1883 and the Bern Convention in 1886. Later on down the road, WIPO was formed. 

How WIPO Began

The Paris Union, also called the International Union for the Protection of Industrial Property, was founded at the Paris Convention of 1883. It offered protection for inventions and trademarks by creators across the globe. The industrial property that is protected according to this union's name refers to a wide range of properties including:

  • Original names and trademarks
  • Source indications
  • Service marks
  • Industrial designs 
  • Inventions
  • Trade names
  • Smaller patents

The Paris Union or Paris Convention also works to prevent monopolies within an industry to encourage fair competition for all companies. Members of this union are required to protect the industrial properties of their own nationals as well as those from other states. Foreigners can apply for a patent which will be recognized in all states that are part of the union. 

In 1886, the Berne Convention formed the Bern Union, which is also called the International Union for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This union is intended to protect the creations of artists, authors, musicians, and the like through copyrights. Such copyrights protect the following types of works:

  • Books
  • Articles
  • Newspapers
  • Periodicals
  • Musical compositions
  • Paintings
  • Photographs
  • Sculptures
  • Films
  • TV shows

The Berne Union works to ensure that copyrights are upheld in every state that is a member of the union and that foreign and national artists are all treated fairly. It is also meant to make sure that copyrights are upheld throughout the life of the artist, author, or creator, and that they continue to be until 50 years after the creator's death. Developing countries are afforded some extra provisions to encourage their creativity and innovation. 

Seven years after the Berne Union was established, it joined the Paris Union to form the United International Bureaus for the Protection of Intellectual Property, also called BIRPI.

About one hundred years later, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) formed and incorporated BIRPI a few years after that. Those who are still members of the Paris Union or Berne Union benefit from protection even if they haven't joined WIPO.  

WIPO is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) and was granted such status in 1974. At that time, it would have been the first new agency joined to the UN in the previous thirteen years. 

Why Does WIPO Exist?

WIPO exists in order to accomplish two things:

  • Encourage global IP protection
  • Keep all of the unions in cooperation when it comes to IP

There are two basic parts of IP that WIPO works to protect, the industrial branch and the copyright branch. It is in the best interest of the global health for organizations like WIPO to protect and encourage innovation and creativity. Innovations help to maintain strong economies and cultures flourish with the creation of artistic works whether painted, written, sung, played, or otherwise. 

Over the past one hundred years many unions have joined with WIPO including, but not limited to the:

  • Madrid Union
  • Hague Union
  • Nice Union
  • Lisbon Union
  • Locarno Union 
  • International Patent Cooperation Union
  • Strasbourg Patent Classification Treaty Union 
  • Vienna Union
  • Budapest Union

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